Havering introduces new burial fee for ‘non-viable foetuses’

Havering Council has introduced a paid burial option for ‘non-viable foetuses,’ citing compassion for grieving parents living in the borough.

From June 1, the authority’s bereavement services will charge £250 for residents to bury certain unborn babies in Upminster Cemetery.

Currently, T Cribb and Sons collects non-viable foetuses (NVFs) in batches of 12 from Queen’s Hospital, in Romford, and takes them to be buried in a single lot at City of London Cemetery in Aldersbrook Road.

A non-viable foetus is one that had no chance of surviving a pregnancy and was delivered up to 24 weeks in, according to the NHS.

The Hornchurch-based funeral director approached Havering to use Upminster because it is “more local and offers an attractive alternative,” the council says.

Louise Roast, assistant director of the council’s bereavement services, wrote in a report: “Given the locality and likelihood that some of the parents who have experienced the loss of the pregnancy will be residents of Havering, it is felt fitting to do so and will provide an opportunity for those parents to be able to visit the site if they so wish.”

Cremation of NVFs is currently handled by the council out of Basildon University Hospital, which she said proved the team can provide a “sensitive and delicate service for those who have lost a baby at such an early stage in their pregnancy”.

Bereavement services will also install a “simple and fitting memorial” in the allocated area, an unused part of the children’s graveyard.

The £250 fee is “in line” with similar services across the capital, the council says. City of London Cemetery, the only local graveyard, charges £250 for the burial of twelve foetuses.

However, some London councils such as Hounslow offer free burial for residents with unborn children.

The added income is expected to bring in around £3,000 a year for Havering, at one delivery of NVFs each month.

Paul Middleton, the council’s cabinet member for digital, transformation and customer services, approved the plan on May 14.

Because it is classed as an ‘executive decision’ and not subject to call in – where councillors can request it is debated by a committee before being officially implemented – it will come into force next week.

After accepting a £54million loan from central government in February – rescuing the council from decarling effective bankruptcy over its £32.5m budget gap – Havering has been looking for ways to make money quickly.

It has also reintroduced late fines across its libraries, amid plans to close four of them, and approved a controversial scheme to sell six car parks and eventually convert them into housing.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter