Belfast Telegraph

Council set to waive part of burial fee for mourning parents

By Lauren Harte

Another council looks set to agree to waive part of the burial fee for grieving parents who have lost a child.

In April, members of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council voted unanimously in favour of a proposal not to charge for opening a grave for the burial of someone aged under 18 at council-owned cemeteries.

Since then proposals have been brought forward at several other councils to introduce a similar measure.

The move was first raised within Armagh council by Portadown-based Ulster Unionist member Julie Flaherty, whose only son Jake died in May 2015, aged just two.

Ms Flaherty said the cost of his funeral was around £4,000 and her proposal, which was agreed, had been to cover the £52 cost of opening a grave in future cases of child burial.

Now councillors in Lisburn and Castlereagh City look set to follow suit from next month with UUP representative Hazel Legge confident the move will receive widespread support.

If rubber-stamped by full council the waiver will come into force on September 1.

Ms Legge said: "I would like to commend my council colleagues for their support for this measure which will go some way to helping families experiencing a great deal of stress and grief."

Three months ago, Prime Minister Theresa May created the Children's Funeral Fund for England after being moved by the "dignity and strength" of Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, who lost her eight-year-old son, Martin. That brought England into line with Wales where Ms Harris's campaign saw the removal of fees for funerals for those under 18.

While Councillor Flaherty is glad to see councils taking the lead on this issue, she is urging Secretary of State Karen Bradley to implement the Children's Funeral Fund in Northern Ireland.

The Department for Communities recently confirmed that it is a matter for consideration by an incoming minister and that in the meantime, council fees for burial or cremation costs are a matter for individual councils.

"The disregard parents are being held in over what may seem a small matter for many, but which is a huge, important matter for the unfortunate few who have lost a child as I did, is utterly disgraceful," Ms Flaherty said.

"The number of letters, cards and emails I have received since I began this quest has been very overwhelming, and have been very emotional to read, but my quest continues."

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