Campaigners welcome council move to drop cremation fees for grieving families

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Grieving parents in County Durham who have suffered miscarriages will no longer have to pay for their children’s cremations.

Councillors have voted to end a discrepancy in fees which meant there was no cremation charge for children aged up to 16, but families whose babies died before birth were billed.

Members of the Central Durham Crematorium Joint Committee, which operates the Durham Crematorium, in South Road, Durham, agreed last week (Wednesday, April 25) to scrap the £9 cost.

Ruth Bender Atik, national director of the Miscarriage Association said: “This is a positive change for those who choose these services following a miscarriage, making at least one part of what can be a very distressing time a little easier.”

A spokesman for Cruse Bereavement Care, a bereavement charity, said: “We welcome the agreement to stop charging for cremation in these sad events.

“We know that the cost of funerals is increasing year on year.

“Not charging for cremation is a small but important step towards helping bereaved parents.”

The Mountsett Crematorium Joint Committee, which operates the Mountsett Crematorium, in Stanley, also voted to change its fees on Friday, April 27.

The decision brings Durham County Council in line with other North East local authorities, which do not charge for cremation of foetuses.

In Sunderland, families are not charged, although there is a charge for hospitals in cases where a family does not choose to have a funeral service.

However, in Hartlepool parents are charged £70 for ‘cremation of foetal remains or a stillborn child or child under five years of age’ and £219 for a child aged between 5-16.

Ian Hoult, Durham County Council neighbourhood protection manager, said: “We have changed our policy in order to bring it in line with our position regarding charging for the cremation of children up to the age of 16.

“Now that the proposal has been approved by both Durham and Mountsett Crematoriums committees, the change will come into place immediately.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said: “We deeply sympathise with all families following the loss of a loved one of any age.

 “Our crematorium provides a respectful and dignified service to support all bereaved families, and as such our cremation charges are carefully balanced to be fair to everyone at what we appreciate is a difficult time.”

Foetus cremation charges for North East authorities:

Hartlepool £70

Durham – £0

Newcastle – £0

North Tyneside – £0

South Tyneside – £0

Northumberland – £0

Darlington – £0

Gateshead – £0

Sunderland – no charge for families*

Middlesbrough – no charge for families*

Stockton – does not have any council owned or operated cremation facilities

Redcar and Cleveland – does not have any council owned or operated cremation facilities

*Some families do not wish to arrange funerals themselves. In such cases a charge may be payable by the hospital

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service