Grieving councillor calls for burial fees for children to be abolished

Little Jake Flaherty who died just after his second birthday in 2013
Little Jake Flaherty who died just after his second birthday in 2013

A councillor, who lost her baby son due to illness, has called for her local council to scrap burial fees for children aged under 18.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty lost her son Jake in 2013 and wants Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council to echo a new scheme in England where local authorities cover the costs of children’s funerals.

Prime Minister Teresa May this week announced the setting up of a Children’s Funeral Fund whereby parents in England will no longer have to meet the costs of burials or cremations.

Fees will be waived by all local authorities and met instead by government funding in England.

This intervention brings England in line with Wales and follows a cross-party campaign by bereaved parents.

Cllr Flaherty said she was pleased to receive cross-party support for her proposals at this week’s Environmental Committee.

She said: “My son Jake died aged two years and two days in 2013 - I have been in this unenviable position. I want this fund implemented here in NI - here in our Borough.

“Therefore, I would propose, that in line with the UK, and with Wales, we adopt this policy here in ABC Council and if necessary write to the Department for Communities, Mr David Sterling, and Prime Minister Theresa May, to ensure that we as citizens of the UK receive the same benefits as those grieving parents in Mainland UK. I am however, well aware, that because of the absence of a functioning Executive here in NI, realistically I will be unable at present to achieve this aim.

“Last year, in ABC Borough, 12 children under 18 were buried in our Council managed cemeteries and those grieving parents can face hundreds of pounds in council fees for burial or cremation costs.

“Therefore, as it stands I would like to propose that we as members of ABC Council set the marker for other councils in NI by waiving, at this stage, the cost of opening a grave only for those under 18 years as a gesture of goodwill at a difficult time in any parent’s lives.

“I don’t believe this is too high a price to pay,” said Cllr Flaherty.

The Prime Minister said: “No parent should ever have to endure the unbearable loss of a child – a loss that no amount of time will ever truly heal. But 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. I have been incredibly moved by the dignity and strength of campaigners like Carolyn Harris MP, who lost her own son Martin when he was just eight years old.”