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PLYMOUTH SOLICITOR WELCOMES DECISION TO WAIVE FUNERAL FEES FOR CHILDREN

The Government has unveiled plans for a Children’s Funeral Fund which means that parents will no longer have to pay burial or cremation fees for a child under 18. The decision, announced by Prime Minister Theresa May, follows a long campaign by MP Carolyn Harris who had to take out a bank loan to pay for the funeral of her eight-year-old son, Martin, when he died in a car accident in 1989.

Mrs May said no parent should ever have to endure the unbearable loss of a child – “a loss that no amount of time will ever truly heal. But 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.”

Plymouth solicitor Annemarie Richardson, a partner at Curtis Whiteford Crocker working in Wills and Probate, welcomed the announcement saying it “shows a bit of humanity.”

In the Westcountry the average funeral cost is £3,615 – £1,680 of which is funded by debt, according to figures from the Royal London National Funeral Index which surveys funeral costs every year. In 2017 the average burial in the UK cost £4,257 and the average cremation £4,136. It is estimated that the cost of debt incurred by funerals in this country is at an all-time high of £160 million.

Local councils generally waive the burial and cremation fees for children, but the provision varies. In Plymouth, Exeter and North Devon there is no burial or cremation fee for anyone up to the age of 16. In Cornwall this is extended to the age of 17. Plymouth City Council is awaiting more information from the Government about the changes. A spokesperson said: “Our current policy is that we do not charge for under 16s cremations or burial. We will review this policy in line with any changes to Government legislation.”

The Local Authority fees for burial in Plymouth, for example, are £1,180 and for cremation £895 with VAT added on top. There are also other costs such as payments to funeral directors and items such as flowers.

“The idea of people remortgaging their homes to bury their children is pretty bad,” says Annemarie Richardson. “The story of Carolyn Harris is a sad one. When her eight-year-old son died she had to borrow from friends and take out a bank loan to pay for his funeral. We see people in the same situation. When you administer an estate for an adult, the funeral bill generally comes to the solicitor and the cost is deducted from the estate. But with a child there is no income to balance the cost against.

“Parents, who are in a bit of a raw state, are not able to find the fees so they start to cut things out of the funeral because they can’t afford it. They do things like downgrade the coffin. It’s a dreadful situation to be in because every parent expects their children to outlive them,” says Annemarie.

“So this decision is something to be welcomed.”

SOURCES:
Government announcement of Children’s Funeral Fund: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/childrens-funeral-fund-for-england
Royal London National Funeral Index:
https://www.royallondon.com/Documents/PDFs/2017/Royal-London-National-Funeral-Cost-Index-2017.pdf/
Cornwall funeral costs and age:
https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/advice-and-benefits/deaths-funerals-and-cremations/penmount-crematorium/funeral-services/scale-of-charges/
Plymouth funeral costs and age: https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/birthsmarriagesanddeaths/deaths/burialandcremation/cemeteriesandcrematoria/cemeteriesandcrematoriafeesandcharges

 

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