Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland council becomes first to waive burial fees for children

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) has become the first Council in Northern Ireland to waive burial fees for children.

Portadown Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty welcomed the announcement.

She brought the motion to her local council following the death of her two-year-old son Jake.

A similar scheme waiving fees for children is already in effect in England and Wales.

Under the proposals parents will no longer have to meet the costs of burials and cremations, with these fees being met by government funding.

A Children's Funeral Fund will only be considered in Northern Ireland when power-sharing is restored.

“This is a very bittersweet week for me.  This week, our son Jake would have been turning seven years of age. It is also five years since we lost him from our family," Councillor Flaherty said.

“It is very heartening to have received such widespread support from Council, and from people across the Borough, and indeed across Northern Ireland since I first raised this matter in April.  I am over the moon that it has been able to move through the process so smoothly, but as you can imagine, it has been quite difficult too.

“The announcement from the Council this week marks the beginning of movement here in Northern Ireland to begin the conversation about Funeral Poverty and the challenges families face at a difficult time in their lives. 1 in 6 people in Northern Ireland will struggle with funeral costs, causing additional stress on top of existing grief and this can have a lasting negative impact on health and wellbeing for years to come.

Councillor Flaherty said she was confident the fee would eventually be waived across all of Northern Ireland.

“This of course, is only the first step. I have been assured by the Permanent Secretary, Leo O’Reilly that this will be brought to the attention of any incoming Minister in a future Executive.  I shall wait patiently until the day comes that I can knock his or her door. I want to see the Children’s Funeral Fund in place here, as it is in England and Wales," she said.

“I am also so proud of the support I have received from my Ulster Unionist Council colleagues. This motion has been raised in every Council in Northern Ireland already. There has been an amazing wave of support and hopefully we will see this coming into effect across the other ten councils.

“The marker has been put firmly down by ABC Council. Now it’s time for the others to follow suit - and of course it’s time to press those in positions of power and influence to get their act together for the good of everyone. There are bigger decisions to be made than this of course, but if they won’t or can`t do it - it’s time for Councillors to show them what we are made of!

“When Jake was here, we had to be his eyes and ears and voice - I hope I still am.”

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