Vicky Turner’s daughter Isabel was diagnosed with Infantile Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia at just three weeks old and died in 2015, a week after her first birthday.
As well as dealing with the trauma of having a seriously ill child, Vicky and Isabel’s father struggled financially during her treatment, faced with hundreds of pounds a month in extra expenses and both having to give up work in order to focus on their daughter. As a result they eventually lost their home and had to move in with Vicky’s parents.
Vicky shared her story with MPs who were invited to a drop-in event at Westminster this week organised by Carolyn Harris MP and supported by CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity supporting children and young people with cancer, and the charity behind the Fair Funerals Campaign, Quaker Social Action.
Following her daughter’s death Vicky set up the Isabel Baker Foundation to provide support for grieving families in the months after losing their children. The foundation works with CLIC Sargent to give grants to families who are struggling with mounting costs and debt.
Vicky said that although they were not charged for Isabel’s funeral, many bereaved families she knows are faced with the pressure of planning and paying for their child’s funeral when the worst happens.
She said: “To have a national fund would benefit so many people emotionally and financially. You want to be able to provide for your child and paying for the funeral, it’s the last thing you can ever do for them.
"I know a lot of families feel like that because their children will never have a wedding, a prom or have any other celebration so they really want to make that day special.”
Ms Harris MP’s eight-year-old son was killed in a road traffic accident in 1989. Speaking at the event on what would have been her son’s birthday, Ms Harris MP called on cross-party parliamentary colleagues to support her Early Day Motion for the government to provide a £10million national Children’s Funeral Fund for councils to use to cover the cost of children’s funerals.
She said: “When it happens you don’t even think about the cost, you are so consumed with pain and you want your child to have a decent send-off as a tribute to them. No parent should have to consider or worry about the cost of their child’s funeral.”
Funeral costs have doubled in the past 10 years and research by SunLife shows that one in seven people who organised a funeral in the past four years admitted that it caused them serious financial trouble. Funeral costs vary across the UK but the average is now £3,897.
Clare Laxton, CLIC Sargent’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “We know that a child’s cancer diagnosis can have a huge financial burden on families, with parents spending an additional £600 per month on expenses such as travel, hospital parking and energy bills. For some of the families we support that go through the devastating experience of losing a child, the funeral expenses they face simply add to this financial burden.
“These families are already going through an incredibly difficult time and we call on the Government to establish a national Children’s Funeral Fund to help these families meet the cost of their child’s funeral.”