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The cost of dying: Families waiting more than a year to bury their loved ones as 'funeral poverty' grows

Deceased people have been held in mortuaries for more than a year whilst relatives struggle to pay for funerals, research by ITV News shows.

In a grim new sign of what’s been called 'funeral poverty', undertakers and hospitals say delays in burials and cremations are increasingly being caused by financial strain on the bereaved.

A Freedom of Information request by ITV News has revealed that a quarter of hospital trusts in England have held bodies for three months or more, as families could not afford the cost of a funeral.

Hospitals have been forced to hold onto bodies as families could not afford the cost of a funeral. Credit: ITV News

Two trusts said they kept the deceased for 14 months.

ITV News also surveyed 120 funeral directors - they too have had to keep bodies for up to eight months because families struggled to pay.

The latest industry research shows the average cost of a basic funeral now stands at £4,078.

Undertakers say price rises are beyond their control with councils increasing charges for burials and cremations.

Whilst some try to conduct the service without payment, some can’t take the risk causing delays whilst families try to raise money.

Curtis Colt, a 19-year-old from Northampton, can't afford the burial he feels his grandfather deserves - and there is nobody else to pay.

“My grandpa has been held for five months, there are no words to describe it," Mr Colt told ITV News.

"You can’t sleep at night, you can’t eat – all you’re thinking about is the funeral.

"You’re stuck in a limbo, you can’t move on.

"There’s no closure.

"To know he’s just laying there, it makes me feel sick.

"It’s why I can’t give up on him.”

Two hospital trusts held bodies for 14 months while money was saved for funeral. Credit: ITV News

The latest industry research shows the cost of a basic funeral now stands at £4,078, an increase of 112% since 2004, a cost which has been branded "extortionate" by those in the industry.

Louise Milligan, Bereavement Services and Mortuary Manager for Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, told ITV News: “The cost of funerals can be extortionate.

“It's horrible for us to see the families and to hear the families talking about that.

"The stress they're under and it's just delaying the grief process really.

“They're trying to grieve, they're trying to lay their loved ones to rest and they feel like they're letting them down, it's horrible.”

Not only is it costs which are delaying funerals taking place, but according to the Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology - which represents mortuary workers - a shortage of pathologists is also contributing to this.

Those still waiting to say goodbye to loved ones are a moving reminder that the scale of Britain's 'funeral poverty' is leaving some unable to rest in peace.

  • Have you experienced 'funeral poverty'? You can share your story by emailing our team at consumerdesk@itn.co.uk
Funeral directors reported storing bodies for up to eight months while costs were met. Credit: ITV News