Public health funeral

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Public health funerals are funerals in the United Kingdom paid for by the local authority, where the relatives are either unwilling or unable to pay, or where no relatives can be found.

England and Wales[edit]

Public health funerals in England and Wales are governed by the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.[1] Local authorities are obliged to arrange a funeral where no arrangements are being made or have been made. Local authorities are permitted to recover the costs of such funerals from the estate of the deceased under the Act.

The Guardian has reported that the average cost of a public health funeral is £950.[2] In some circumstances where a person dies in hospital the relevant NHS trust may arrange a funeral for the deceased; however, ultimately the duty to arrange the funeral rests with the local authority.[3]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Similar provisions to those in England and Wales exist in Northern Ireland under the Welfare Services Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. District councils are obligated to bury or cremate those who die in their area where no suitable provisions for disposal of the body have been made or are being made.[4]


In Scotland a duty is imposed on local authorities under the National Assistance Act 1948 where the body of a person who has died or been found dead in their area and no suitable arrangements are being made for disposal of the body.[5] A local authority may also arrange a burial or cremation for any person who was in the care of or receiving assistance (as well as children in local authority care) from the authority immediately prior to their death.[6] In both cases a local authority may seek to recover costs from the estate of the deceased.

549 funerals were undertaken in 2015 under the provisions above, costing local authorities approximately £500,000.[7] These funerals are usually conducted by an undertaker contracted by the local authority to prepare the body and provide a basic funeral.[8]


  1. ^ "Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984". Section 46, Act of 26 June 1984. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  2. ^ "Funeral bills left are with councils by hard-up relatives". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  3. ^ "When a Patient Dies - Advice on Developing Bereavement Services in the NHS" (PDF). The National Archives. Department of Health. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Welfare Services Act (Northern Ireland) 1971". Section 25, Act of 16 February 1971. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  5. ^ "National Assistance Act 1948". Section 50, Act of 13 May 1948. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968". Section 28, Act of Error: the date or year parameters are either empty or in an invalid format, please use a valid year for year, and use DMY, MDY, MY, or Y date formats for date. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  7. ^ "'Pauper funerals' cost councils £500,000 a year in Scotland". BBC News. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  8. ^ Citizens Advice Scotland, "Funeral Poverty in Scotland - A review for Scottish Government", 2016, Page 37