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Thanet District Council plans to bring back burial and cremation fees for children's funerals

Heartbroken parents of babies and children who die may now have to find hundreds of pounds for funeral costs.

Thanet council is looking to reintroduce burial and cremation fees, which range from £300 up to £650 for children, from next April.

St John's Cemetary Chapel, where babies and children's funerals are held. Picture: Google
St John's Cemetary Chapel, where babies and children's funerals are held. Picture: Google

The local authority says families will be able to claim back the money from the government's Children's Funeral Fund.

But critics have warned that the move will put a huge financial burden on bereaved parents, some of whom won't be able to afford the payment.

Sarah Rooke from East Kent Sands, which supports people who have lost a baby, says having money worries will affect grieving families immensely.

"Trying to find that large sum of money, which you may not have, and then having to start focusing on paperwork to try to claim it back is just too much," she said.

"It's a traumatic time when there will be depression and mental health worries. It's a time when you want to try to be as peaceful as possible and not have to worry about finances.

"Not having that financial worry is a huge help for some parents and takes that pressure away at a difficult time."

Sarah Rooke
Sarah Rooke

Thanet council, in a report to cabinet members, who have been recommended to approve the plan at a meeting next Thursday, insists the move would not impact bereaved families financially.

The authority, which scrapped burial and cremation fees in April last year, says currently the costs for children under 18, including stillborn, are being funded by the council. It is unable to claim those costs back from the Children's Funeral Fund, like families can.

The report says: "Whilst very few services are carried out for those under the age of 18 years, since the removal of the fees for children, there have been three stillborn and eight burials, and five stillborn and six cremations.

"The cost of providing these services has had to be supported by other income generated by the cemeteries and crematorium service.

"The introduction of the Children’s Funeral Fund is an opportunity to reinstate fees for these services, without impacting financially on families suffering bereavement."

'Some families wouldn't know where to get the money from' - Sarah Rooke

But Mrs Rooke says trying to find hundreds of pounds will cause anxiety for many.

"They may be able to claim it back, but that initial payment is an awful lot of money - we speak to people who are living on weekly salaries and they wouldn't know where to get the money from," she said.

"It might make some people feel as though they are not giving their baby the best send-off because they might not be able to then afford other parts of the funeral."

Laura Cooke, from Margate, lost her five-week-old baby Luchii Gavrilescu in December to tuberculosis.

The family held his funeral in January, with a horse drawn carriage and heartbreaking service at St John's Chapel in Margate, before he was laid to rest in the children's part of cemetery.

Luchii Gavrilescu
Luchii Gavrilescu

Ms Cooke says bringing back fees will cause more stress to parents when they are trying to arrange a send-off for their little ones.

"Losing a baby or child is the worst possible thing any parents can go through, it's the most heartbreaking time of your life," she said.

"Losing my son Luchii, nearly one year on and I'm still grieving with upset and pain each day.

"Families will be put under extra pressure, worry and upset thinking about having to find the funds and potentially putting themselves into financial difficulties at such a sad time in their lives.

"Trying to get the funds together will cause a lot of stress for the parents on top of trying to arrange everything else."

Luchii's parents release a dove at the funeral
Luchii's parents release a dove at the funeral

In March 2018, it was announced that a Children’s Funeral Fund would be set up in England, under which fees for burials and cremations would be waived by councils and met instead by government funding. Several MPs campaigned for it due to concerns about bereaved parents meeting the costs of their child’s service.

From July last year, families suffering the loss of a child could claim costs back from the fund.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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