Public Health Funerals

The Council has a duty to arrange the funeral of anyone who dies in the Borough where there are no relatives or agency willing or able to make these arrangements. If arrangements have already been made, such as instructions to a funeral director, we will not be responsible for any costs incurred, nor can we part fund a funeral.

Getting help to pay for a funeral

If you are unable to pay for a funeral, you may be eligible for financial assistance towards the costs. For more information, please contact the Department for Work and Pensions’ Bereavement Service helpline on 0345 606 0265 or visit the death and benefits page on the GOV.UK website.

Burial or cremation

Where known, we will respect the wishes of the deceased to be buried or to be cremated.  Any costs associated with specific instructions must be met either through the deceased’s estate or by family members or friends. In the case of a cremation, if a family member wishes to retain the remains, they must be collected from the crematorium.

Reclaiming costs

We will recover the cost of the funeral, together with administration costs, from the estate. If necessary, we can sell any belongings of the deceased in order to offset these costs.

If, after we have deducted the cost of the funeral and our associated cost:

  • the remaining estate is over £500; and
  • there is no evidence of a valid will: and
  • there is no known next of kin;

we will refer the estate to the Treasury Solicitor in accordance with guidelines for referring ‘Bona Vacantia’ estates. It is at this point that we will make the information public (see below).

Freedom of Information Requests

We receive a large number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) regarding public health funerals and Bona Vacantia cases. To ensure we promptly deal with all such requests, general details of all public health funerals arranged by the Council, since 1st April 2016, are provided in our register of Public Health Funerals. As such, our response to FOI requests for such information is to direct  requesters to this register.

Requests for additional information

The Council is adopting a similar position to the Government’s Bona Vacantia Division, by not providing additional information for Bona Vacantia estates. This is due to concerns of potential criminal activity resulting from disclosures of assets, before the Treasury Solicitor has undertaken their own enquires. Furthermore, releasing information about ‘last known addresses’ into the public domain poses a security risk, as such properties are likely to be unoccupied and still contain the possessions of the deceased. We therefore will apply the exemption under Section 31(1)(a) of FOIA (prevention and detection of crime) to withhold disclosing such information. This exemption permits the Council to withhold information, if such disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime. In consideration of these issues, we believe that there is no-overriding public interest in releasing this information.

Requests for Value of Estates

The Council will withhold releasing information regarding the value of estates, applying Section 31(1)(a) of FOIA. We believe that releasing information of the value of estates would likely enable the commission of fraud or other criminal activity.

Public Interest Test

In applying the above exemption, we have considered the public interest test. This involves the Council taking into account, the public interest in disclosing and withholding information. There is a compelling public interest in ensuring that the Government’s Division’s activities are conducted in a transparent and honest way. However, disclosure of exempt information could facilitate the commission of fraud, potentially resulting in a loss to the public purse, and there is a strong public interest in protecting it. We therefore, believe in these circumstances, that the public interest in maintaining the exemption under Section 31(1)(a) of FOIA outweighs the public interest in disclosing such information.