Belfast Telegraph

Waiving of child burial fees to be considered when power sharing restored

A Stormont department says a scheme to waive part of the burial fee for grieving parents who have lost a child will be up for consideration for an incoming minister when power sharing is restored.

Ulster Unionist Julie Flaherty, who lost her infant son, introduced the proposal to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council on Monday night and received unanimous backing.

Ms Flaherty has now received an assurance from the Department for Communities that any incoming minister will have the introduction of a Children’s Funeral Fund presented to them for consideration.

It has been implemented in England following the intervention of Prime Minister Theresa May. Under the scheme parents will no longer have to meet the costs of burials and cremations, with these fees being met by government funding.

However, the scheme will only be considered in Northern Ireland when power sharing is restored.

Ulster Unionist councillor Julie Flaherty and her husband with two-year-old son Jake

Ms Flaherty said: “Having lost my own son, Jake at two years and two-months-old in 2013, I know from bitter experience how a gesture such as central government covering the costs of burial or cremation could mean a lot. 

“I brought the proposal forward to my own council, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, that we waive the cost of opening a grave for those under 18-years-old as a gesture of goodwill towards their families.

"I know that in the absence of an Executive implementing the fund as is in place in England at this time is unlikely to be achieved. 

“However, I felt strongly that local government institutions should do all we can in the interim to help ease the burden on grieving families.

“I am delighted that my campaign has led to a commitment being given by the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities that the introduction of a scheme similar to the Children’s Funeral Fund will be presented for consideration by incoming ministers. 

“I am glad that this important issue will be on the desk of the next minister and I will be one of the first knocking on their door to make sure that this important goodwill gesture is offered to families in Northern Ireland.”

Ms Flaherty's son Jake was born in May 2015 with Down Syndrome. He also battled other medical issues, including a congenital heart defect. Ms Flaherty said the cost of Jake's funeral was around £4,000.

Northern Ireland has been without a government for over a year. On Thursday the Belfast Telegraph reported there was "no chance" of progressing talks until the autumn.

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