Last night, I held an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on children’s funeral costs; two years, five months and four days after the first time I held such a debate.
In this debate, I spoke of the unimaginable devastation of losing a child, much like I did in November 2016. It isn’t easy to stand and share my heartache, but I do so because I know that it is to help other parents, parents who will be bereaved in the future, so that no parent should have to worry about how they can afford to give their child a funeral.
I have a letter on Downing Street headed paper that takes pride of place on my noticeboard, that letter is dated 10 April 2018 and signed by the Prime Minister. In that letter, the Prime Minister promises that she will introduce a Children’s Funeral Fund, in memory of my Martin.
I look at that letter each day as I sit in my office, thirteen months old and unfinished business.
In the time since I first shared my grief with colleagues in the chamber, the devolved administrations of the UK have already adopted the Children’s Funeral Fund, yet England has fallen behind.
The Welsh Government announced that they would absorb the local authority costs in March 2017, implemented in November 2017.
The Scottish Government announced that they will put aside £500,000 per year to fund the abolition of local authority burial fees for under 18s.
In the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont, local authorities in Northern Ireland have waived their fees for the funerals of under 18s.
Fair Funerals UK estimate the average cost of a cremation is £3,596 whilst a burial is £4,561. That is a lot of money for families to find, regardless of where they reside in the UK.
As parents we all want to give our children the very best we can in life. In death this becomes even more important. When a dignified funeral is the very last gift you can give them, money should not be a barrier – but sadly, at around £4000 for a funeral, it often is.
Announcing that a fund will be introduced and then holding back from providing the money for it is unacceptably cruel to the parents that need help.
This summer it will be 30 years since we lost Martin. 30 years is a long time and some days it feels like forever. Others it feels like no time at all and the pain is just as raw as the day he died. I miss the little boy that I lost and my heart breaks for the man that he never got to be.
The Prime Minister promised to create this fund in memory of Martin. She needs to honour that promise, for my little boy, for me and for every other parent facing the unbearable heartbreak of losing a child.