The Government has laid Regulations to bring into operation the Children’s Funeral Fund in England on 23 July 2019. The Fund will reduce the financial burden for families by reimbursing funeral costs directly to burial authorities, cremation authorities and funeral directors. It is estimated that 3,800 children die under the age of 18 in England every year and there are a further 2,700 stillbirths.
Under the fund arrangements, no bereaved family will have to pay the fees for a child’s cremation or burial or for a number of prescribed associated expenses. The fund provides for burial authorities and cremation authorities to apply directly to the Government for the reimbursement of the fees which would otherwise be charged for the provision of the burial or cremation of an eligible child. It also provides for funeral directors to apply for reimbursement of certain associated expenses, including a £300 contribution towards the cost of a coffin. If the person responsible for organising the burial or cremation makes the funeral arrangements rather than using a funeral director, he or she will be able to claim for those expenses directly from the Fund.
The only conditions imposed by the scheme are that the child is under 18 at the time of death or stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy and that the burial or cremation takes place in England. The scheme is not means-tested, and the residency or nationality of the deceased child, or of the person organising the burial or cremation, will not be relevant in determining eligibility.
The Welsh Government and the Scottish Government have both established schemes under devolved powers to make financial support available to providers of burial and cremation for children.
The Church of England does not charge funeral fees for children under 16: see Canon B2(i) (Funerals & Burials): “No fee is payable in respect of a burial of a still-born infant, or for the funeral or burial of a person dying within sixteen years after birth”. (The Church in Wales does not charge any fee in respect of a still‐born infant or child under the age of 18.)
Frank, the Church of England will also no longer charge a fee for the funeral or burial of a person aged under 18 as from 1 January 2020: see Part 2 of the Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2019, SI 2019 No. 752 (GS 2116) passed by General Synod after a short, but lively, debate on 21 February 2019. See also para 18 of the Explanatory Memorandum, GS 2116X.