Starbeck funeral director starts 285-mile walk to Parliament to fight funeral poverty
A Starbeck funeral director has set off on aÂ 285-mile walkÂ to the Houses of Parliament to fight against funeral poverty.
Organising meetings with dozens of MPs in towns and cities along his route, and finishing at Downing Street, Jonathan Robinson of Joseph C Roberts Funeral Directors, is lobbying the Government to increase the amount of money available to families for funerals.
He said not being able to afford a funeral can leave anyone feeling inadequate or embarrassed, and can make a bereavement even more traumatic. Jonathan will present a petition to Parliament at the end of his walk, having gained as many signatures as possible from campaigners and supporters en route.
Jonathan started his journey on Monday, with Starbeck residents lining the high street to wish him luck.
Jonathan said: "Something needs to be done. Families have got the emotional stress of dealing with a bereavement in the first place, and added to that, the stress of finding the money for a funeral.
"I can potentially see it getting to the stage where someone takes their own life because of the worry and stress of finding the money for a funeral - if they feel like they have no one to turn to or feel like there's no way out of it.
“Some people have to go to JustGiving pages to raise money for a family member’s funeral, they shouldn’t have to do that."
The latest figures from the national Fair Funerals campaign show that the average cost of a cremation is Â£3,596, and Â£4,561 for a burial.
Jonathan will walk an average of 20 miles a day over two weeks. He is adding extra miles onto his journey to meet with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Work and Pensions, Kit Malthouse.
Jonathan said the costs of utilities, vehicle excise duty, vehicle insurance, timber prices and unleaded petrol have increased, along with the minimum wage, but the funeral fund has not increased in proportion to these costs.
Jonathan said: "I have already had messages of support from people who have been affected, and I anticipate that this will grow as I continue the walk. It needed somebody to do something quite radical to gain public attention. The more that people get behind this, the more of a chance of success there is when I get to Westminster.
"I think it's everybody's right to have a dignified funeral for a family member or loved one."
Jonathan gave a talk at St Andrew's Church about why he's doing the walk - he said the support from members of the congregation was overwhelming.
He said: "Some people didn't realise funeral poverty exists, they were absolutely appalled to hear about it. The support from people at St Andrew's was overwhelming."
Jonathan is also raising money for Dementia UK during the walk, setting himself a fundraising target of Â£10,000.
He said: "I see more and more people being affected by dementia. They effectively lose somebody twice - they lose them while they are still alive, when they don't recognise their wife or husband, or son or daughter, then lose them again when they pass away."
To donate to Jonathan's JustGiving page, click here.