Data obtained by the Co-op through a FOI request shows that just under half of the bereaved families who would have been eligible for funding, have applied for the Children’s Funeral Fund for England since it launched last July.
The government fund, which launched on July 23, 2019, helps bereaved parents pay for their child’s burial or cremation. It followed a cross-party campaign supported by the Co-op and led by Carolyn Harris MP, who called tirelessly for greater financial support for bereaved parents after the devastating death of her eight-year old son, Martin.
Co-op said to be eligible, a child must be under 18 at the time of death or stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy, and the burial or cremation must take place in England.
Prior to the introduction of the Children’s Funeral Fund, in 2017, Co-op Funeralcare became the first national funeral director to extend its free child funeral policy to bereaved parents, grandparents and legal guardians of children up to and including the age of 17.
It revealed through its free child funerals policy, for over 30 years the Co-op has been able to help over 25,000 bereaved families with funeral costs.
The policy is part of a broader focus at the Co-op on supporting bereaved parents. In April 2020, the organisation announced to its 63,000 colleagues that it is to give four weeks’ fully paid leave to any colleague who loses a child under the age of 18.
David Collingwood, director of funerals at Co-op Funeralcare said: “We campaigned for and welcomed the introduction of the Children’s Funeral Fund, which was such a positive and important step in helping families in England through the most tragic and unimaginable loss. This vital fund has helped and comforted devastated parents at the worst time of their lives.
“This is a fund that you hope nobody will ever have to access. Sadly though, an estimated 3,800 children die under the age of 18 every year, and there are a further 2,700 stillbirths. It is encouraging to see that the fund has been able to offer many of them some financial support in a time of such tragic loss.”
He said: “Whilst some families may choose not to access the funding, we’re encouraging the MoJ and organisations supporting bereaved families to assess whether all families have been made aware of the financial support that is available to them.
“Unfortunately, not all funeral directors currently waive all the charges for a child’s funeral and there are other costs to cover, including vehicles, transfers and arrangements. We believe these added costs should be covered by the grant.”