Parents in England will no longer have to meet the costs of burials or cremations for children who die under the age of 18.
Every year, an estimated 4,350 children die under the age of 18 and grieving parents can face thousands in council fees for burial or cremation costs, according to the government.
There is also “considerable variation” in charges, with some councils waiving fees altogether.
But under the new scheme, fees will be waived by all local authorities in England and will be met instead by government funding under a new ‘Children’s Funeral Fund’. This will bring the system in England in line with Wales.
The move follows a cross-party campaign by bereaved parents spearheaded by Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris who reportedly took out a loan to pay for her eight-year-old son Martin’s funeral.
However, the government is yet to confirm when the fund will take force, saying more detail will follow in due course.
Prime Minister Theresa May comments: “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.”
David Collingwood, director of funerals for Co-op Funeralcare, which provides free cover for children's funerals UK-wide, adds: "We welcome the positive changes made by government and local authorities, helping us to do what matters most as a caring society. The alterations made to child funeral fees are helping to ensure that any parent facing such a tragic loss has the highest level of reassurance from everyone involved.
’Having to manage the practical aspects of organising the funeral together with suddenly finding the money to pay for such an event only adds to this unimaginable grief. At the beginning of 2017 we made the move to extend our support, ensuring that bereaved parents of children up to the age of 18 will not be charged for our services. We provide all our services, the coffin, a vehicle or hearse for the funeral with no charge."
Is there funding in Scotland and Northern Ireland?
In Northern Ireland and Scotland, as in England and Wales, there is a 'funeral expenses payment' that can be applied for from the government to help cover costs for those in receipt of certain benefits - note that there is a different way to claim this if you live in Northern Ireland.
However, neither Northern Ireland or Scotland will cover the cost of children's funerals, although the Scottish government is looking to set up its own separate funerals fund. But exact details of what this fund will cover and how it will work have yet to be announced.
A Scottish government spokesperson says: "We know funeral costs can push people into poverty and often it is those already in financial hardship who face increased difficulties. That is why we are taking decisive action to tackle this growing issue, as set out in our Funeral Costs Plan – and we will introduce a new Fune ral Expense Assistance from Summer 2019.
“We have engaged with local authorities, the funeral sector and other services to find ways to provide more affordable funerals and we will continue to support innovative measures to address the costs of funerals.
“We note this announcement from the UK Government – we are already actively considering ways to further support families in Scotland suffering the bereavement of a child.”
“While help with funeral expenses is available to some people on low incomes through the Social Fund, there is no separate Children’s Funeral Fund currently in place in Northern Ireland.”
A spokesperson for Northern Ireland's Department for Communities adds: “While help with funeral expenses is available to some people on low incomes through the Social Fund, there is no separate Children’s Funeral Fund currently in place in Northern Ireland.”