An MP calling for the Government to fund the cost of child funerals is confident of "significant cross-party support" for her campaign, which if successful would mean grieving families no longer have to pay £1,000s to lay their children to rest.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris has told MoneySavingExpert.com that she will table an 'early day motion' (EDM) this week that could potentially trigger a House of Commons debate on whether or not the Government should commit to providing £10 million each year towards a safety net fund to cover the cost of funerals for children.
The Swansea East MP broke down in tears in the Commons last week when she spoke of her own experience of struggling to pay for the funeral of her eight-year-old son Martin, who was tragically knocked down by a car and killed in 1989.
Some local authorities waive or discount burial costs for under-16s, but this largely depends on individual councils' budgets. Harris is calling for the Government to step in to end what she refers to as "a postcode lottery".
Her fellow Labour MP Chris Bryant raised her campaign during Prime Minister's Questions last week. However, PM Theresa May would not commit to stumping up the cash needed for the annual safety net.
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How much does a child funeral cost?
The death of a child is every parent's worst nightmare, but sadly it's one that becomes a reality for many families every year.
The average cost of a child's funeral in 2016 was £3,675, according to a survey by insurer Royal London. The cost varies depending on where you live, whether you want a burial or cremation, and how elaborate you'd like the ceremony to be.
While it's often the case that funeral directors and the clergy don't charge for a child's funeral, there are other costs that some families struggle to find money to pay for, such as burial fees charged by local authorities.
What support is currently available?
There are a number of councils across the country that don't charge for child funerals, but others do – meaning that whether or not grieving families are asked to find the money for their child's funeral will depend on where they live.
A separate Government funeral-payment scheme exists to help fund funeral costs, but this is means-tested.
What's more, the average payment under this scheme in 2015/16 was just £1,400, according to the House of Commons Library, which is some way short of the £3,675 average cost of a child's funeral.
To qualify for this scheme, you (or your partner) must get one of the following:
- Income support
- Income-based jobseeker's allowance
- Income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Housing benefit
- The disability or severe disability element of working tax credit
- One of the extra elements of child tax credit
- Universal credit
Full info on the Government's funeral payment scheme can be found online.
Is the EDM likely to spark a rethink by the Government?
EDMs are formal motions submitted for debate in the Commons; however, not many are actually debated. What EDMs do is allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause – MPs can then register their support by signing individual motions.
Harris's EDM represents the next stage of her campaign to put pressure on the Government to fund child funerals and she believes her motion will receive substantial backing from MPs representing all of the major political parties.
Speaking to MSE in Westminster today, Harris said: "My intention is to push out an EDM as soon as possible this week. I've already received a lot of goodwill from MPs from all parties – there's been significant cross-party support. The SNP [Scottish National Party] MPs will get behind it, as will the Lib Dems. I've also had support from a lot of Tories.
"It's an issue that crosses party lines; I'd hope to get more than 150 MPs supporting it."
What does the PM say?
There are no signs yet that the Government will agree to footing the bill for child funerals.
Responding to Bryant's question during Prime Minister's Questions last week, Theresa May said: "There are measures in place for those families that have particular hardship cases where money can be given and it's up to local authorities to waive fees – some do this.
"We have left this as a decision for local authorities and some do indeed waive those fees."