THIS week is Good Death Week, an opportunity to encourage people to plan and prepare for their death and funeral – and remove the stigma that so often surrounds these things.

There is no doubt that the death of a loved one is one of the most tragic events any of us can face. It’s even harder when there’s extra stress surrounding finding the money to pay for the funeral. Many of us don’t consider the cost of this until we find ourselves in such a situation and facing this expense.

The Scottish Government published guidance on funeral costs this week as part of our work to help people understand the cost of funerals.

We are also working to improve funeral affordability, through our Funeral Costs Plan, and to encourage people to talk more openly about their funeral wishes, including how to prepare and provide for them.

One action in the plan is to use our new social security powers to ensure our replacement for the UK Government Funeral Expenses Payment – our new Funeral Support Payment – reaches more people, is simpler to access and that we speed up the payment times.

READ MORE: Good Death Week begs the question: Is there such thing as a good death?

The payment will begin this summer and is designed to help those on low incomes with the costs of a funeral. It has three parts, support for burial or cremation costs, support for certain transport costs and a flat rate payment of £700 that can be used towards other costs such as the coffin, flowers or funeral directors fees.

Compared to the previous DWP system, Scotland’s Funeral Support Payment will increase eligibility by around 40%, helping more people with financial support towards funeral costs. It is backed by around £6 million investment every year.

We are also committed to annually uprating the £700 payment to take account of the impact of inflation – something the UK Government has not done since 2003. As well as widening eligibility – as with our Best Start Grant, which helps low-income families at key stages in a child’s life – we have simplified the application process to support people in their time of need.

As always we have engaged with people at every step of the way to ensure we create this benefit to work for people. For example, we have developed the wording of questions carefully so that they’re less upsetting and intrusive.

For the first time people will also be able to apply online, as well as on the phone, through paper applications and – once Social Security Scotland is fully operational – they will be able to apply face to face with one of our people based in their local community.

This work is all designed to support people with the process and to remove barriers to applying. Funeral Payments in the past have been one of the worst benefits for take-up and we are determined to change that.

We are actively promoting all the benefits we deliver so we can reach people in need of this financial support. So for the Funeral Support Payment, we will pro-actively promote it in places where people who may need this support may visit – including registry offices, through NHS bereavement services and through funeral directors, as well as through other routes such as local authorities and welfare advice services.

This is all in line with the key principles enshrined in Scottish social security, including that people are given what they are eligible for, that we treat people with respect, and that social security is itself a human right.