“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it”- Haruki Murakami
Since the turn of the century, many reforms have been implemented to ensure that we as a society embrace all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation. When it comes to the end of life services however, current practices prevent the LGBTQ community from being able to access the quality of care they deserve especially during these difficult times. Why is this?
Let’s Be Frank
Approximately 6% of the population identifies as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (UK Treasury) and 1% as transgender (GIRES). In the UK today 630,000 people die each year, resulting in approximately 44,000 deaths which are from the LGBTQ community. The reality is that often these deaths fail to receive the same quality of care as those who identify “classically” as heterosexual males and females.
Many funeral directors and doctors still operate on the incumbent mindset that palliative care and funeral proceedings should apply similarly across all individuals regardless of sexual orientation.
This cannot be further from the truth; studies have shown that LGBT individuals are reluctant to receive the appropriate support at the end of their life, due to a myriad of reasons that heterosexuals individuals do not have to face:
- LGBT individuals anticipate to be discriminated against from funeral service providers. Since death is a sensitive topic, individuals may feel uncomfortable knowing that they will most likely be treated differently and that therefore increases the anxiety associated with what is already a stressful situation.
- Funeral service providers may make assumptions about their sexual orientation (i.e. heterosexuality) which makes any conversation about sexual orientation awkward. LGBT members would either have to accept the false assumption that was made or come out every time they encounter a different member of staff, both of which may cause unwanted stress.
- LGBT Individuals may struggle to address their spiritual needs, as some religions fail to provide the same services as they would for heterosexual individuals.
- The support networks may vary. Networks consisting of close friends and support groups may be more common amongst the LGBT community due to their blood relatives being less supportive for example. Individuals are therefore anxious that their loved ones may not be respected and recognised as next of kin due to the traditional view that next of kin normally consists of family members.
- Partners of LGBT individuals may fail to receive appropriate grief and bereavement support due to their sexuality.
Although progress has been achieved by funeral directors and organisations to reduce these barriers, there remains much work to be done to ensure that all individuals are treated equally in life and in death.
What does quality care for the LGBTQ+ community look like?
Funeral costs are getting unaffordable
Regardless of whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ community or not, funeral costs are difficult to afford and are only getting more expensive with every year that passes by. The UK government has recognised this problem, particularly due to Covid-19 and has therefore created a Funeral Expenses Scheme.
Quaker Social Action (QSA) is an organisation which has over the last ten years advised individuals and companies on funeral costs and procedures. QSA has released a detailed overview for Scotland and the rest of the UK on how to apply for government grants (a grant is a loan that does not need to repaid). We have summarised below for convenience the criterion for eligibility:
You will need to be receiving one of the following income-related benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Working Tax Credit which includes a disability or severe disability element
- Child Tax Credit
If the deceased individual does not live with a partner, then the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) will automatically search for their immediate family.
Note that as mentioned earlier, if the deceased is a member of the LGBTQ community and therefore may have had a partner unbeknownst to the immediate family, the DWP can take into account those who had the closest contact with the deceased and hence it is still possible for someone not of biological relationship to apply for the grant. This is very encouraging.
It should however be noted that the grant amount is often not nearly enough to cover the entire cost of a funeral and therefore funeral loans and other alternatives may have to be considered.
At NEO Cremations, our team members have attended training sessions with the QSA to assist individuals wanting to apply for the Funeral Expenses Scheme, and are also more than happy to help with any other enquiries you may have.
We hope we have provided you with some appreciation for the struggle members of the LGBT community have to endure with respect to funeral services. At NEO Cremations, we believe all members of society deserve equality and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, in life and in death.