Wales politics

Child burial social fund forms criticised by Swansea MP

Carolyn Harris

An MP who had to take out a loan to bury her son has said she could not fill a kettle at the time, let alone fill in a 35-page form to apply to a social fund.

Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris will lead a debate in parliament on Monday calling on the UK government to scrap child burial fees.

The prime minister has said social fund funeral payments are available.

But Ms Harris said she wants £10m set aside to automatically cover costs.

Her son Martin was eight years old when he died in a road accident in 1989.

Ms Harris told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme: "I've no doubt the undertaker told me about fees but... I couldn't bury him on his own, I needed to bury him with somebody and I buried him with my grandparents.

"What I didn't know at the time was, to reopen a grave was a more expensive option than a new grave.

"When I had the funeral bill - the church, my own vicar and the undertaker were wonderful in waiving many costs - there was a rigid cost that had to be paid to the local authority. I've got a vague recollection it was about £800.

"It was frightening."

'Difficult time'

The Labour MP also had another son and said she had to make a decision over "which of my two boys needed me the most".

"I reasoned in my mind that my son Martin would have been looked after by my grandparents, but Stuart couldn't have coped with the loss of his mum and his brother at that one time," she said.

"To be worrying about money at a time when you can't even comprehend how you're going to get through the rest of the day."

"If the government were to put aside £10m... it's such a simple ask and it's such an affordable ask," she added.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said it is "modernising bereavement benefits, introducing a simpler and fairer scheme that will better assist people in what can be an extremely difficult time".

More on this story