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Woman spent three and a half years since her parents' deaths paying their £7,000 funeral 

A woman who's spent the last three and a half years in debt because of her parents' 'basic' funeral has confessed she can 'now finally start living her life again' after paying the £7,000 bill. 

In ITV's Funerals: The True Cost?, airing tonight, Karen Hitchman, 57, from Mossley, near Manchester, describes the heartache of having to deal with the staggering cost of the service while grieving for her loved ones.

Karen's mother died in 2016 and her father passed away just six weeks later - which left their daughter with more than £7,000 worth of bills to pay for their 'basic' funeral, which was made up of just one car, caskets and a simple crematorium service.

Thankfully, Karen was helped by several charities and the government who provided her with some of the money through grants - but the rest was paid using loans.

'[I went] home to all that debt', says Karen in the documentary, which sees presenter Sonali Shah investigate how funeral prices have doubled since 2004 - leaving hard-up families in £150million of outstanding loans.

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Karen Hitchman (pictured), who's spent the last three and a half years in debt because of her parents' 'basic' funeral, has confessed she can 'now finally start living her life again' after paying the £7,000 bill

Speaking on the programme, Karen says: 'One car, casket, crematorium, home, that was it. No fancy service at a church beforehand, it was just a basic funeral.

'So when the funeral's over and done with, people go home and say "what a lovely funeral" but they don't realise you're going home to all that debt.

'I had to get loans. It's took me three and a half years almost to pay every penny off, for my mum's and dad's funeral,' she recalls.

It was a huge weight off Karen's shoulders when all the costs had been paid, meaning she could start concentrating on herself once again. 

'I felt relieved when everything was paid, and thought, "I can actually now start living my life.",' she confesses.

In ITV's Funerals: The True Cost?, airing tonight, Karen, from Mossley, near Manchester, describes the heartache of having to deal with the staggering cost of the service while grieving for her parents (pictured)

Karen's mother died in 2016 and her father (pictured at their wedding) passed away just six weeks later - which left their daughter with more than £7,000 worth of bills to pay for their 'basic' funeral, which was made up of just one car, caskets and a simple crematorium service

'People should be able to say goodbye to their parents, children, partners and not be having to worry [about the cost].'

Karen parents were together for 60 years when her mother died in 2016, with her father tragically dying shortly after. 

'My dad past away six weeks [after my mum] - it was from a broken heart,' Karen claims. 'They were together since the age of 14, never a day away from each other, and he just gave up.' 

Elsewhere in the programme, former MP Frank Field, now Lord Field of Birkenhead, claimed funeral businesses have been 'ripping off' grieving families. 

He chaired a Parliamentary investigation into the funeral industry back in 2016, and insists, amid a major inquiry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), that some funeral directors were fleecing vulnerable families. 

Thankfully Karen (above) was helped by several charities and the government who provided her with some of the money through grants - but the rest was paid using loans

Lord Field claims the two biggest funeral companies in the country - Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity Funeral Directors - have been overcharging customers.

'If it's a decent person, they make sure you got a funeral which you might be able to pay for. Otherwise, they let you run up debts, and then you're in a different ballgame,' he tells the Tonight team.

'We're moving, inexorably, to a conclusion, where the funeral companies will be instructed to behave better, he says. 

The CMA report noted the rising costs of funeral directors, cremations and graves from 2004 to 2019 and says of the big two companies mentioned: “Price rises well in excess of general inflation were a core part of Dignity’s strategy for a considerable period of time.

‘Co-op Funeralcare took the decision to follow Dignity’s lead and increased its prices by a similar annual rate.’

'[I went] home to all that debt', says Karen in the documentary, which sees presenter Sonali Shah (pictured) investigate how funeral prices have doubled since 2004 - leaving hard-up families in £150million of outstanding loans

According to the programme, both Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity absolutely deny they’ve been overcharging their customers and say the CMA report is out of date.

Dignity insists its prices have been around 3 per cent below inflation since 2017, while Co-op Funeralcare tells Tonight: ‘In the last four years we’ve focused heavily on lowering prices, taking 15 per cent off the cost of our most affordable funeral.’

The firm says they’ve also launched a funeral hardship fund to help those most in need and both companies claim they’ve invested heavily in quality and care, with 99 per cent consumer recommendation rates.

The CMA’s final report is due early next year.

Ian Strang, who runs a funeral price comparison site called Beyond Life, suggests it’s vital to shop around, despite that most mourners don’t, instead opting for the closest firm.

He says: ‘You'll be given in many cases a 20 page price list of different types of coffins, complicated words like disbursements, internments.

‘And if you negotiate over it, you'll think it feels like haggling over how much you love your loved one.’

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