Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Breakthrough for Our Drive to End Baby Burial Shame; THE DISPOSSESSED COUNCIL WITH WORST RECORD ON PAUPERS' GRAVES SIGNS UP TO CAMPAIGN

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Breakthrough for Our Drive to End Baby Burial Shame; THE DISPOSSESSED COUNCIL WITH WORST RECORD ON PAUPERS' GRAVES SIGNS UP TO CAMPAIGN

Article excerpt

Byline: David Cohen

THE Evening Standard's campaign to end the scandal of children being buried in mass graves took a major step forward today when a key borough vowed to end the practice.

Southwark, which last year buried 72 babies in "paupers' graves" -- more than any other London council -- has promised to ensure they are laid to rest with dignity.

It becomes the 13th of the capital's local authorities to sign up to the Standard's charter calling for an end to Dickensian-style mass graves. Last week it emerged that a fox had been able to take a baby from a paupers' grave in Battersea New Cemetery because it was not properly sealed.

Southwark's decision means families too poor to afford a burial will no longer have to see their children placed in a pit containing up to 30 bodies -- the most buried together in any London borough. It also brings to an end a hidden practice that has gone on for hundreds of years.

Graves will no longer be left with planks placed loosely on top, leaving bodies accessible to scavenging animals.

Most importantly, parents will have a choice of cremation or burial site.

Paul Kyriacou, Southwark's executive member for the environment, said: "Following the Standard's expose we have looked again at this practice. We have decided every parent should have the choice not to bury their child in a communal grave. We believe everyone deserves a dignified burial service.

"We face the challenge of having two major hospitals nearby and very limited space at our cemeteries, but this is too important an issue to ignore."

Last week Mr Kyriacou had cited "tight budget constraints" as an excuse for failing to offer individual graves.

The boroughs responsible for 45 per cent of London's communal child and baby burials have now signed up to the charter. Wandsworth, which runs the cemetery where the fox seized the child, is one of them.

London's most affluent borough, Kensington and Chelsea, has still not signed up. The Conservative authority buries pauper babies 20 to a pit and in the last three years has conducted 16 pauper burials. It would cost the council less than [pounds sterling]7,000 a year to adopt our proposals. …

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