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Scheme to waive child burial fees not expected to extend beyond council cemeteries

Four options to go to committee for consideration

A scheme to waive burial costs for children under the age of 18 is not expected to be extended to cemeteries and graveyards outside council ownership.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council was the first local authority in Northern Ireland to agree to the move in a bid to take pressure off grieving families suffering the loss of a child.

It did so after the matter was brought to the full council by Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty, who had lost her own two-year-old son Jake.

There was unanimous support for the introduction of such a measure by councillors of all parties.

The decision was taken at the end of April – in the absence of input from Stormont – and introduced from the start of June.

At the same meeting, council officers were asked to bring back a report on options and practicalities of offering a similar scheme to the families of those who do not wish to be buried in a council cemetery.

Four options have now been drawn up – with three variations all involving reimbursement moves.

And they will go before council’s environmental services committee meeting sitting in Craigavon tonight (Tuesday).

One of the options involves charging a subsidised rate of £52 – the previous, highly discounted, charge for council-owned cemeteries before it was removed.

Another would see officers establish a ‘vouching scheme’ with churches which have private cemeteries. They would ask for clergy to meet and discuss the details of a scheme, one idea being that, each quarter, the church would complete a form listing all burials within their cemetery, with the council reimbursing the church £52 for each qualifying burial.

The third variation is that the registrar, when registering a death, would provide a form stamped by them to verify that the family qualify – that they live in the borough and deceased is under 18 years of age. The families could claim the £52 from the council.

The preferred option, however, is that the scheme only apply to council cemeteries.

A report to council points out that the responsibility in relation to burial only goes so far as offering a service to the public, those within the borough or outside.

It adds: “Each person has a choice whether to use the council service, and comply with its rules and costings, or not.

“If a person wishes to be buried outside of a council facility the council has no responsibility past the registration of the death.”

Introducing any of the reimbursement options has been estimated to cost an additional annual sum in the region of £1,456.

That is based on last year’s figures, when 28 people under the age of 18 were buried within the borough but not in council cemeteries.

However, the recommendation to council committee is that it maintain the cost of child burials in council owned cemeteries only.

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