The social services in both Malmö and Stockholm say they are having to arrange an increasing number of funerals for people who die lacking both money and relatives, a development confirmed by the Swedish Association of Funeral Directors (Sveriges Begravningsbyråers Förbund, SBF) and the Fonus funeral directors.
"How we take care of our deceased over time shows an interesting societal development; through all times funerals have mirrored the well-being of society. We have a sense that the local councils are often the ones ordering the service, as there is no-one else willing to deal with it," SBF Director Ulf Lerneus told TT newswire.
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The city of Malmö annually arranges between 25 and 30 funerals for deceased who either lack relatives entirely, or when the relatives are unwilling to arrange the funeral.
"Many do not have relatives or close family, and someone has to ensure the person is buried. That means the local council has to step in," said Eva Holmström, family lawyer at the city of Malmö.
Malmö has also seen a slight increase in the number of applications for financial support to cover funeral fees, which may be provided when the estate of the deceased person does not contain enough funds to cover the costs of a funeral. The number of applications in Malmö has gone up by approximately 25 per year in the past three years. Last year, the city of Malmö received 450 such applications.
Another trend, noticed by the funeral directors, is that some local councils have begun ordering funerals without a ceremony.
"That means the body is transported directly from the morgue to the crematorium, to be buried in an urn in a memorial grove," said Ulf Lerneus.
Peter Göransson, head of marketing at the Fonus funeral directors, has also noticed this development.
"Funerals without a ceremony are on the rise, but a growing number of relatives are also choosing more lavish ceremonies when the estate of the deceased is paying. From a customer's perspective, we are treated differently depending on what council we live in. There is a great variety in the subsidies paid by the local councils, in spite of clear recommendations from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen). It is regrettable if a civil servant gets to decide how a funeral is to be carried out," Göransson told TT.
Between 90,000 and 95,000 people die every year in Sweden, approximately 10,000 of whose estates have no money left in their accounts after the funeral, the Swedish Tax Agency said.