MPs have renewed calls for the long-delayed children’s funeral fund to be urgently implemented in England. The commitment, which will see local authority fees waived for children’s funerals, was made in April last year following a powerful campaign by Carolyn Harris MP, but a date for its implementation is yet to be set.
During yesterday’s (1 May) adjournment debate on the fund, Carolyn Harris MP, whose son died aged four in 1989, questioned ministers on delays, asking why the commitment made by the Prime Minister 13 months ago was still not a reality.
Justice Minister Edward Argar MP responded on behalf of the government and told MPs that discussions on the implementation were still ongoing across government departments, but that it was his ambition to implement the fund in the summer. Introducing the fund in England would require parliamentarians to pass legislation; if the fund is to be introduced by the summer, the final opportunity to pass legislation will be July, after which point MPs rise for summer recess.
During the debate, Tim Loughton MP also highlighted the extra costs that families of children with life-limiting conditions can face in the months or years ahead of a child’s death, and how this can compound the financial pressure families face when planning the funeral.
Reacting to the debate, Andy Fletcher, Chief Executive of Together for Short Lives, said:
“We welcomed the government’s commitment to the children’s funeral fund when it was made in April last year, but delays have meant thousands of families have faced the death of their child without this crucial support. The government must now act fast to urgently establish the fund and ensure no more families have to face this added burden when the unthinkable happens.”
A similar scheme is already in place in Wales and Scotland, with councils in Northern Ireland also waiving the fees. It is estimated that around 4000 children have died in the months since the announcement was made.
Together for Short Lives shared a briefing with MPs ahead of the debate, available here.
A transcript of the debate is available here.