Fees plan will help families in darkest hour

Wigan Crematorium
Wigan Crematorium
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Council bosses in Wigan are to offer a helping hand to grieving families by waiving cremation and burial costs following child deaths.

The plans are part of the town hall’s budget proposals for 2017/18 which will go before the full council next week.

Proposed by new cabinet member Coun Jenny Bullen, the move will save devastated families hundreds of pounds in their hour of need.

In previous years only the cremation and burial services for children up to the age of five have been free.

In the original draft for this year’s budget, cremation fees for six to 11 year olds were to be set at £107, increasing to £296 for those aged 12 to 18.

Meanwhile, burial costs for six to 12 year olds were to be £186, rising to £840 for anyone older than 12.

Coun Bullen, who suggested the changes at last week’s meeting of the ruling cabinet, told the Observer: “It is unbearable for a parent to lose a child.

“The cost for a child’s funeral was so small that it seems the right thing to do to cover it for the family to support them through such a difficult time.”

The new system will be in place for any families using the council’s crematorium or associated services.

Paying for the cost of child funerals has been referred to as a national postcode lottery given that some local authorities have previously pledged to abolish fees but many have kept them in place.

Wigan will join fellow Greater Manchester authority Rochdale Council if the proposals are approved at the March 1 meeting of the full chamber.

Last year the Labour Party launched a campaign to lobby the Government to introduce regulations meaning it would meet the cost of child burials or cremations.

Such a scheme would cost £10m a year, the party has argued, with the fund “a very small proportion of government expenditure”, according to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Roger Gale, chief executive officer of the Child Funeral Charity, said the council’s plans were “great news”. He told Wigan Today: “CFC welcomes this news, it will certainly help many families who may have struggled to afford the costs associated with funerals for their children and babies.

“Our calls for a sense of commonality across all local authorities are now being heard and we’re talking to a number of MPs and calling on the Prime Minister to endorse our campaign.

“Even the £10m asked for would not cover all the costs associated but we are being listened to. This is great news and will help a lot of families.”
Council bosses have said families who are already in the process of planning funerals will be eligible under the system.