Britain to abolish burial, cremation charges for children

About 4,350 children under the age of 18 died every year and that their families faced thousands of pounds in local authority fees for burial or cremation costs.
About 4,350 children under the age of 18 died every year and that their families faced thousands of pounds in local authority fees for burial or cremation costs.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (NYTIMES) - Parents in England will no longer be charged burial and cremation fees for children after Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the government would set up a fund to cover the charges.

The announcement on Saturday (March 31) came after a campaign by an opposition Labour lawmaker, Ms Carolyn Harris, who went into debt to bury her 8-year-old son, Martin, who died in a road accident in 1989.

The charges were waived for parents in Wales last year.

Mrs May said in a statement, "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."

"In the darkest moment of any parent's life, there is little light, but there can be support," she added.

Labour Left, a research organisation tied to Britain's main opposition party, said on Twitter that the fund would be financed with 10 million pounds, or about S$18.4 million.

The Prime Minister's office noted that about 4,350 children under the age of 18 died every year and that their families faced thousands of pounds in local authority fees for burial or cremation costs.

Those costs can vary considerably, though some councils waive the fees.

Ms Harris, a member of Parliament for the Welsh constituency of Swansea East, celebrated the announcement on Twitter.

"This victory will mean parents who are going through the toughest time in their life will have one less thing to worry about," she wrote.

In a video, she said, "I just wish it hadn't taken so long."

Mrs May lauded the "dignity and strength" of Ms Harris, who had been at the forefront of the campaign to abolish child funeral fees after she had to take out a loan to bury her son.

The Prime Minister said she had asked for the fund to be set up "for Carolyn, in memory of her son Martin."