Public Health Funerals

East Staffordshire Borough Council have a statutory duty to provide a funeral for a person that has dies within the borough where no suitable arrangements are being made. These types of funeral are referred to as Public Health Funerals and are performed under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 Section 46 where there are no family or friends to make the necessary arrangements.

Where the deceased has a next of kin but there are concerns over the cost of the funeral they wil initially be referred to the Department of Work and Pensions as they may be entitled to a funeral payment through the Social Fund which is administered by Jobcentre Plus for those on income related benefits.

If the deceased has passed away outside East Staffordshire it is the responsibility of the Local Authority where they have died to arrange the welfare funeral even though they may have lived in the Borough.

The council cannot become involved if funeral arrangements have already been made for the funeral to take place. Anyone giving instructions to a funeral director will be responsible for any costs incurred.

East Staffordshire Borough Council’s Environmental Health Team will deal with all aspects of the organisation of a public health funeral, including registering the death, dealing with the undertakers and organising the details of the funeral and paying for the funeral.

East Staffordshire Borough Council will consider any wishes that the deceased may have had. Where no specific wishes or religious beliefs are identified the Councils appointed funeral director will provide a direct cremation, this does not include a service, flowers or memorials. The Council will also not accept contributions for such items. Ashes will be scattered in the crematorium grounds 3 months after the funeral.

However, prior to any involvement by East Staffordshire Borough Council, the following needs to be considered.

A death in hospital

If the deceased person died in a hospital managed by a NHS Hospital Trust and no relatives can be traced or relatives are unable to afford the cost of the funeral themselves or they do not qualify for a Social Fund Funeral Payment, then the bereavement Officer of the hospital in which the person died should be contacted.

Executors of the deceased

If the deceased made a will, the council cannot become involved in the undertaking of the funeral arrangements unless the executor revokes the will.

In order to establish who will be responsible for undertaking the funeral arrangements, a full search of the premises where the deceased person formerly resided, if appropriate, will need to be made to establish whether there are any next-of-kin.

If the deceased resided in a hospital, care or nursing home, prior to the death and without a private address, then there may be no property to search. However, any retained personal papers will require careful examination to establish whether next-of-kin are able to arrange the funeral.

Whilst the majority of people may be organised in the retention of legal papers, correspondence, bills, diaries etc., others are not. In many cases important documentation is put aside for safekeeping in unconventional places and a full search of the property, therefore, needs to be made.

Property belonging to the deceased

ESBC Commercial Team have the statutory authorisation to enter a property, under the provisions of section 61(1)(d) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, to ascertain the extent of the estate and to remove any items or assets which may assist in funding the funeral.

If the Coroner is involved, then a Coroners Officer should have previously removed any valuables, money, benefit books and official documents whilst undertaking their initial investigations into the person’s death.

Keys to the deceased's property should not be left with neighbours or any other person but handed either to a Coroner's Officer or a Police Officer.

The premises must always be made secure. In the case of properties rented from a housing association, then a call to the relevant office should be made to ensure a temporary secure door to the premises is provided.

Recovery of Funeral Costs

The Act allows the Local Authority to recover funeral costs incurred from the estate of the deceased. We will also recover £400 for officer expenses incurred in the administration of the funeral. This is the first charge on the estate. The remaining estate will be sent to the Treasury Solicitor (Bona Vacantia) if relatives can't be found.

If relatives are found they will need to apply to the Probate office for a Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration in order to access the residual estate. You can find more information by contacting the Probate office.

Property owners

Landlords must not enter the premises or remove any items from the property until the Commercial Team have completed enquiries. In normal circumstances, this will be undertaken without delay and the keys subsequently returned to the property owner.

Further Information

Further information is contained within the Public Health Funerals Policy Statement

There is also further information on bereavement allowance and funeral payments or you can contact East Staffordshire Borough Council Environmental Health Team

01283 508633

East Staffordshire Borough Council, Environmental Health, Town Hall, King Edward Place Burton upon Trent, DE14 2EB