Children’s funeral fees in the UK are now waivered

Posted: 03/04/2018

Children’s funeral fees in the UK are now waivered

Perfect Funeral Plans takes a look at the amazing achievement of the Swansea East MP, Carolyn Harris, who spearheaded the campaign to waiver the cost of children’s funerals across England and Wales.

It has been announced by the government at the beginning of this month that children’s funerals will now be waivered by all local authorities across the country. Under ‘The Children’s Funeral Fund’ scheme, (which will be formally announced in the Autumn Budget later on in the year), parents who suffer the loss of a child will now have the cost of a funeral and burial rites covered.

During her speech announcing the government intervention on childrens burial costs (following on from previous cross-party support for Keven Hollinrake’s Parental Bereavement Bill for those who suffer the death of a child under 18) Theresa May said ‘in the raw pain of immediate loss, it cannot be right that grieving parents should have to worry about how to meet the funeral costs for a child they hoped to see grow into adulthood’ adding that ‘no parent should ever have to endure the unbearable loss of a child – a loss that no amount of time will ever truly heal’.

Funeral plans are not typically for children or youth, but rather an ageing community who are looking to save their family the burden of a costly funeral.

What impact will this announcement have?

The announcement this Easter by the Prime Minister (which has already been implemented with immediate effect in one council in the country, Wakefield) is sure to be a welcome relief to many grieving families of young children. In the UK each year, on average 4,350 children under the age of 18 die in England, and the costs involved when it comes to arranging a funeral are by no means cheap.

childrens-funeral-fund

The price of funerals has been increasing steadily over the last decade, with the estimated cost of a funeral for a child up to now at a staggering £3,675, according to research by Royal London, the pension and insurance company. The exact figure has depended on factors such as where the burial has been held in the country and whether a cremation has taken place, as well as how elaborate the ceremony itself is.

However, it is important to note that the Child Funeral Charity had previously reported that a large number of funeral directors, celebrants, clergy as well as a certain number of councils have not been charging fees for children’s funerals prior to this announcement.

Nevertheless, the fundamental problem concerning children’s funeral costs had been that waiving fees had been on a voluntary basis, and in some circumstances, only certain funeral expenses were waivered.  For example, some councils charged for burial fees or did so on a reduced fee basis for those who had died under the age of 16. Or, there was the government funded Social Fund Funeral Payments scheme, which was intended to help cover funeral costs on a means-tested basis. Nevertheless, it had been widely criticised on the basis of the inadequacy of the payments provided, with the average payment in 2015/2016 according to a report by the House of Commons Libary amount to just £1,400 – less than half the cost of the average funeral for a child. Under the Social Fund Funeral Payments scheme under the scheme, full help may be given with certain funeral expenses including burial or cremation.  Other expenses – such as funeral directors’ fees, the cost of a coffin, church fees and flowers – may be covered but only up to a maximum of £700.

The Children’s Funeral Fund will now ensure that all children’s burial costs will now be under an exemption for bereaved parents.

The Children’s Funeral Fund in England and Wales

The establishment of the Children’s Funeral Fund which will cover all children’s burial costs in the UK is now aligned with legislation implemented last year in Wales.

The establishment of both funds in UK and Wales is the direct result of the tireless campaigning led by the Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris to end funeral costs for children.

The campaign by Carolyn Harris

carolyn-harris-childrens-funerals

Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, who led the campaign to end children’s burial costs for grieving parents. Source: Wales Online

Harris has been at the very forefront of a cross-party Parliamentary campaign for a number of years calling on the governments in England and Wales to establish a fund to cover children’s funeral costs after experiencing the death of her own son, Martin, aged just eight in 1989. Harris had struggled to cover the costs involved when arranging a funeral and found herself with no other alternative but to take out a loan, putting a tremendous strain on her health and that of her family during an already difficult time.

Theresa May during her speech directly praised the ‘dignity and strength’ of the Swansea East MP in her announcement:

‘I have been incredibly moved by the dignity and strength of campaigners like Carolyn Harris, who lost her own son Martin when he was just eight years old. Carolyn has passionately argued for a Children’s Funeral Fund to spare grieving families the burden of meeting funeral costs. In the darkest moment of any parent’s life, there is little light – but there can be support.’

May added that ‘that is why I have asked for the Children’s Funeral Fund to be set up in England. For Carolyn, in memory of her son Martin, and in support of all those parents overwhelmed by such harrowing loss.’

Speaking about the news that the Children’s Funeral Fund will now be established in England too, Harris told The Guardian that: “I celebrated last year when the Welsh government gave me the Children’s Funeral Fund, I’ve celebrated when every local authority right across this country has done this.But at last after so much pressure and so much time, families right across the United Kingdom can know that if they’re ever in that terrible, terrible position when they lose a child, that there will now be a pot of money available to make sure that child has a dignified and respectful funeral’.