The UK’s leading charity supporting children and young people with cancer is campaigning on the issue with Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, whose eight-year-old son was killed in a road traffic accident in 1989, and other organisations including Fair Funerals. CLIC Sargent and Child Bereavement UK have written to the Chancellor and more than 1,000 people have joined CLIC Sargent’s campaign by emailing their MPs to highlight the issue.
Funeral costs have doubled in the past 10 years, with the average now costing £3,897. Some local authorities and funeral directors waive their fees for children’s funerals but it varies across the country. The Social Fund Funeral Payment administered by the Department for Work and Pensions covers less than 40% of the average cost of a funeral. The creation of a £10million a year fund would help ease the financial burden on the families of 5,000 children who die in the UK each year.
Clare Laxton, CLIC Sargent’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs said:
“The death of a child is something that parents are completely emotionally and in many cases, financially, unprepared for. We know that a child’s cancer diagnosis can place 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 the families we support that go through the devastating experience of losing a child, the funeral expenses they face simply add to this burden.”
Allison Barr, whose son, 15-year-old son Jak died from cancer, is backing the campaign. Allison was supported by a CLIC Sargent social worker after his diagnosis. The social worker helped Allison to apply for benefits and also arranged for her to receive a grant from the charity. However the financial repercussions of having to cut back her hours as a teacher to care for Jak, combined with additional expenses during treatment continued to be felt after he had died.
Allison, from Mid-Calder in Scotland said: “I realised I would struggle to pay for Jak’s funeral. The costs are huge and I had no savings. Luckily, his football team raised money for us and I didn't have to face that. I just don't know what I would've done otherwise. I couldn’t believe the lack of support there is for a parent planning their child’s funeral. It’s something you just can’t cope with.”