Carolyn Harris MP: More than a year since Theresa May's announcement, the Children's Funeral Fund must now be introduced in England
The Ministry of Justice are working hard to make the Children’s Funeral Fund a reality in England, like it is in other parts of the UK. But a year really is too long to wait, says Carolyn Harris MP.
Less than a week ago, MPs returned to Westminster after our first week’s recess of the year. It was lovely to be back home in Swansea for the week and spend Easter with my nearest and dearest, but holiday periods are always bittersweet for me - as they are for thousands of other men and women up and down the country. I spent the weekend catching up with my two boys which was a real blessing, but I can never escape from the fact that there is someone missing.
When you’ve lost a child, every day brings little reminders, but birthdays, anniversaries and holiday periods, really are the hardest. I know how lucky I am to have two strapping young men to call my sons, but I miss the little boy that I lost and my heart breaks for the man that he never got to be.
Many of you will have read my story before – it is no different to anybody else’s who has faced the unbearable pain of losing a child. My husband and I earned modest salaries at the time of Martin’s death and struggled to find the money to pay for his funeral. Thanks to the support of our friends and family, help from our local community and a loan from the bank we managed to pull together enough to be able to say goodbye to our cherished little boy in the way that we wanted to. I know just how fortunate we were to be able to do this and I also know that for many others this is just not possible.
As parents we try to do all we can for our children – buying them the very best we can afford, even if it means going without ourselves, and ensuring all their needs are met. It breaks my heart that some mums who lose a child, are unable to afford the very last gift that they can give them – a dignified funeral.
The loss of a child is like nothing anyone who hasn’t experienced it can imagine. It almost destroyed me and if it weren’t for the fact that Martin’s younger brother still needed his mammy to look after him, who knows what course my life would have taken.
The debate I’ve secured in the House of Commons today is the latest step on a campaign that has been on this issue. I’m almost certain that my passion, my determination and my absolute desire to help those in vulnerable positions has somehow been born out of my grief. When I was first elected as Member of Parliament for Swansea East I knew that this privileged position would give me a platform to make changes. That is why I made the decision to share my story - in a bid to help others facing the same dark days that I myself faced almost thirty years ago.
It hasn’t been easy and there have been days where I have doubted my decision, but in my heart, I knew the fight was worth the struggle. And this was confirmed when the Prime Minister finally announced that she would be introducing a Children’s Funeral Fund, in memory of Martin, which would mean that bereaved parents would no longer have to face the financial difficulties that I once faced when they were already dealing with the cruel fate that life had dealt them.
It has now been more than a year since that announcement. The Welsh Labour Government have implemented the fund. The Scottish Government have implemented the fund. Councils across Northern Ireland have implemented the fund. England is still waiting. The Prime Minister has offered a vague promise of ‘by this Summer’ and I hope that she is true to her word. Already over 4000 families will have lost a child in England since the announcement. That’s 4000 families that have had to pay for a funeral. I know that the Ministry of Justice are working hard to make this fund a reality but a year really is too long to wait.
Carolyn Harris is Labour MP for Swansea East.