Child Burial Fees Waived in England
A new ruling by Parliament has seen child burial fees scrapped in England, following on from a decision made in November to scrap them in Wales.
The UK government made the announcement on 31st March 2018, informing the public that costs relating to child burials and cremations will now be waived. This means that families facing the heartbreaking reality of losing a child will not be stuck with an expensive bill to add to their burden.
The measures bring England in line with Wales, where fees for child burials were abolished in November last year, after a campaign by Welsh Labour MP Carolyn Harris.
Wales taking the first step
In November 2017, child burial costs were eradicated in Wales, with the Welsh Assembly setting aside a fund of £1.5m until 2020 for local councils. The decision was widely applauded as prior to the announcement, fees greatly varied across different regions. Cardiff and Swansea local authorities had already waived the charges.
The cross-party campaign, led by Swansea East Labour MP and Shadow Home Office Minister Carolyn Harris began back in 2016, achieving success in November 2017, when fees were abolished in Wales, before increasing their efforts to tackle the rest of the UK, eventually succeeding. The campaign was extremely close to Mrs Harris’ heart, having tragically lost her eight year old son Martin in a road accident in 1989. Mrs Harris told the press how she had had to take out a loan to pay for his funeral, with many other bereaved parents facing debt and financial hardship in addition to what is the darkest moments of their lives.
After the government’s announcement, Mrs Harris said: “After so much pressure and so much time, families right across the United Kingdom can know that if they’re ever in that terrible, terrible position when they lose a child, that there will now be a pot of money available to make sure that child has a dignified and respectful funeral.”
A new Children’s Funeral Fund will be set up in England to help with funeral costs for grieving parents. Prime Minister Theresa May, when announcing the changes, said: “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…In the darkest moment of any parent’s life there is little light – but there can be support…That is why I have asked for the Children’s Funeral Fund to be set up in England; for Carolyn, in memory of her son Martin, and in support of all those parents overwhelmed by such harrowing loss.”
An estimated 4,350 children under the age of 18 die each year in England, according to government statistics.
Criticism had previously been leveled at the UK government for not updating the ‘outdated’ support system. In 2016, the Work and Pensions Committee heard how the Social Fund Funeral Payment (SFFP) which is designed to help families pay for funeral expenses had been ‘dramatically eroded’, leaving families in financial dire straits when paying for funeral expenses.
Funeral costs rising
Basic funeral costs have risen by five percent since 2016, now coming in at around £4,000, according to a survey by insurance firm SunLife for their annual Cost of Dying Report, marking the 14th year in a row that costs have increased. There has been a 112 percent increase since the firm started tracking funeral costs back in 2004. According to the report, the average overall cost of dying, which includes the funeral, wake, flowers, memorial and hiring professionals to administer the estate is now around £9,000.
Burial costs have increased by 4.7% since 2016 (116% since 2004). Cremations are significantly cheaper, a standard cremation costing on average £1,000 less than a standard burial. The cost of ‘religious’ burials has seen the biggest increase, nearly 150 percent since 2005. Based on SunLife’s estimates, the average funeral cost will be close to £5,000 in five years’ time. In the last decade, funeral costs have increased at more than triple the rate of both weekly wages and house prices.
The cost of funerals varies widely across different regions, with the ‘most expensive place to die’ being London, where the average funeral costs nearly £6,000. The lowest costs for funerals were found in Northern Ireland and Wales, where there has been a decrease in funeral costs since 2016. The southern and eastern regions of the UK were found to be the most expensive when it comes to funeral costs, above the national average, whereas in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and most of northern England, funeral prices were below the national average.
SunLife reported that in a bid to reduce funeral costs, families have been cutting down on costs for the send off, which is one of the few costs they have control over.
Why are funeral prices increasing?
58 percent of funeral directors surveyed by SunLife said that council budget cuts were mainly to blame for the rise in funeral costs, resulting in reduced burial subsidies and raised costs to balance income. Other factors include wage increases for those involved in the burial/cremation process and taking care of gravesites, a lack of space for burial sites and increasing land prices.
To guard against the rising costs of funerals, more people are making financial preparations themselves for their own funerals. The purchasing of prepaid funeral plans has increased since 2016, according to SunLife, as well as people making provisions through savings and investments, or life insurance plans to cover the costs of their funeral.
However, while 58 percent of people made provisions, only 80 percent of those who made provisions left a sufficient amount to cover the cost of their funeral, with one third of families surveyed saying that the cost of their loved one’s funeral was greater than anticipated. One in nine families faced financial difficulties as a result of paying for a funeral. People surveyed said they had to borrow money, use credit cards, take out a loan, use personal savings and even sell their possessions to meet the cost. This did mark a decrease however, from one in seven families in 2016.
The Cost of Dying Report gathered data from 1,524 adults planning a funeral or administering an estate, and 100 funeral directors across ten UK regions. You can read the full report by SunLife on their website.
Caerphilly Funeral Services is a local, family-owned, independent funeral director in North Cardiff. We have over 25 years’ experience in offering memorable and personal funeral services in and around South Wales. We provide a range of bespoke funeral plans to suit the wishes of families and their loved ones. For more information, visit our site.