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Friday, 24 November 2017

Wales ends burial and cremation fees for parents whose children have died

Written by Johanna Carr

The grieving parents of children who have died will no longer have to pay burial or cremation fees, the Welsh Government has said.

The Wales-wide move, coming into effect from Thursday, follows a campaign by Labour MP Carolyn Harris.

Describing the announcement by Wales' first minister Carwyn Jones as "momentous", Ms Harris said she wanted to see an end to parents struggling with the costs of burying their child with the introduction of a children's funeral fund.

The member for Swansea East, whose "bright and beautiful" son Martin died aged eight, 28 years ago, said: "I will be eternally grateful to the Welsh Government for taking this momentous step in supporting grieving families."

The Welsh Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with local government to stop charging for the burial of children and is making up to £1.5 million available between now and 2020 to support local authorities making the change

It said the funding would also be available to all other providers of cemeteries and crematoria in Wales who agree not to charge on the same basis.

Mr Jones said: "We must do all we can to support families who have lost a child.

"I am pleased we are able to work with local authorities to take away just one of the stresses and strains on the shoulders of grieving parents during a hugely distressing time."

Mr Jones, who will make an announcement at the Welsh Local Government Association's (WLGA) autumn seminar in Cardiff on Thursday, said getting rid of the charges would also "end the unfairness caused by charging different fees across Wales".

Burial and cremation fees vary considerably between local authority areas and some, such as Cardiff Council, have already scrapped the charge for children, while others such as Monmouthshire County Council charge more than £1,000 for the burial of any person aged five or over in a single depth grave.

Newport City Council does not charge for the interment of children aged 16 or under but the fee for anyone over that age is £1,076.

The UK Government has faced repeated calls from Ms Harris and other MPs to scrap child burial and cremation fees. Last month, during a debate, Chancellor Philip Hammond was urged to consider creating a child funeral fund in Wednesday's Budget but he did not.

Ms Harris spoke about losing Martin and the struggle she faced paying for his funeral, in an emotional speech to the House of Commons last November.

Commenting on that experience, she said: "Standing in the House of Commons and telling everyone my story was incredibly difficult but I wanted to help others who would experience a similar tragic loss in the future.

"I wanted to see an end to parents struggling with the costs of burying their child and began my campaign calling for the introduction of a Children's Funeral Fund.

"I've felt like I've re-grieved for my son, but at least now he has a legacy and no other parent in Wales who goes through the tragedy of losing a child will have to worry about funeral costs."

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said analysis showed the cost of interment in a grave that would allow family members to be added at a later date ranged from less than £600 to more than £1,800.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Owen Humphreys / PA Wire.