Public health burials

Our role

The Council has a public health duty to bury or cremate any person who has died within the District, where no other suitable arrangements have been or are being made for the disposal of the body. We make every effort to trace next of kin, family and friends however burial usually occurs when there are no relatives or friends willing to take responsibility (financially or otherwise) for the funeral arrangements. We do not use a ‘finders’ service.  Notification is normally received via the coroner’s office in most cases.

Circumstances in which we will not arrange a funeral;

  • we will not part fund a funeral if funeral arrangements have already been made, such as instructions to a Funeral Director, we will not be responsible for any costs incurred.  
  • if the person dies whilst in-patient at hospital - an agreement exists whereby the hospital will deal with the funeral arrangements.
  • if the person dies in a nursing home - funeral arrangements are normally made by relatives or social services, as they will often be managing the finances of the deceased.
  • if the deceased was having their money managed by social services.
  • if the relatives of the deceased cannot afford to pay for the funeral. Relatives should be referred to the local Jobcentre plus or social security office, as they may qualify for financial assistance under The Social Fund (April 2004) regulations.

Funding a funeral

If you are unable to pay for a funeral you may be eligible for financial assistance towards the costs.

There are two main types of financial assistance available for people who are unable to pay for a funeral:

You can contact the Department for Work and Pensions' Bereavement Service helpline on 0345 606 0265 to check your eligibility for assistance, or visit the death and benefits page of the website:

If you need assistance to access funding, the Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help:

What happens

Where the coroner has notified us of a death where, as far as they are aware there is no one willing to make funeral arrangements we will search the deceased person’s home to try and find a will or any documents that will indicate the existence of any relatives, friends, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.  Where we find details of family and friends they will be informed of the death and invited to make the funeral arrangements. Close relatives or partners will be asked to confirm in writing that they are not prepared to make arrangements for the funeral.

We will instruct a local funeral director to make the necessary arrangements. This will be a no service funeral. We will act upon the wishes of the deceased if these are known such as any religious beliefs.

The cost of the funeral is usually met out of the estate of the deceased. If there are insufficient funds the executor is personally liable. Under the Act the funeral costs are the first expenses claimed on any estate. We are entitled to collect any and all sums of money due to or belonging to the deceased to help offset the costs of the funeral and expenses.

If, after we have deducted the funeral and administration fees:

  • the remaining estate is over £500
  • there are no other bills outstanding
  • no known next of kin

We refer the remaining estate to the Treasury Solicitor in accordance with their guidelines for referring 'Bona Vacantia' estates.

Public Funerals Register

We have recently been experiencing a high volume of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from companies and individuals offering to trace the next of kin of persons whose funeral has been dealt with under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984. In response to the volume of FOI requests on this subject we have created a register of public health funerals.

Please note that under 'last known addresses', some addresses have been redacted or withheld in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 under Section 31(1)(a) - law enforcement (prevention and detection of crime).

We will not disclose address details where they relate to the deceased's empty properties as the property is likely to be unoccupied and might still contain the deceased's personal papers and effects. We do not believe it to be in the public interest to disclose information relating to empty properties prior to a full and thorough securing of the assets of the estate as undertaken by the Treasury Solicitor.

Further information

If you require further information please contact the Environmental team:

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