Public health funerals

When we can arrange a funeral

We are told when people have died with no next of kin or where there may not be enough funds to carry out a funeral service. In these cases we may be asked to arrange the funeral.

It is our duty, under the Public Health Control of Disease Act 1984 section 46(i), to arrange a cremation or a burial for a person who has died within our area where no suitable funeral arrangements have been, or are being, made.

We are then entitled to recover the funeral costs from the estate of the deceased, in the form of a civil debt recoverable within three years.

In cases where there are assets that exceed the cost of the funeral, and where there are no other bills outstanding, any money left will go to the Estates Group within the Bona Vacantia (small receipts) Division of the Treasury Solicitor, in accordance with the rules set down by the Secretary of State.

We will not become involved if any funeral arrangements have already been made or the funeral has already taken place. The council will not part-fund a funeral or contribute to the cost of a funeral which has already been organised by someone else.

When we will not get involved

The council will not undertake funeral arrangements if the deceased died in hospital or in an ambulance on the way to hospital. Under these circumstances the hospital authorities will take responsibility.

We will not normally undertake funeral arrangements if the next of kin were in receipt of benefits, as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will pay.

Getting help to pay for a funeral

If you are the person responsible for arranging a funeral and are on a low income, a funeral payment can be claimed from the DWP Social Fund if either you or your partner are in receipt of:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit (or the Council Tax payer where you live gets a second Adult Rebate because you are on a low income)
  • Working Tax Credit which includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element

You can apply for this at any time from the date of death up to three months after the date of the funeral. You should receive the necessary cost of specified items or services plus up to £700 for other funeral expenses.

For more information visit the DWP Bereavement Service or call 0845 606 0265. 


When this content has been updated

Last updated 8 February 2018