Public health funerals

Sometimes when someone dies, there are no relatives or friends available to arrange their funeral. In such cases we are responsible for arranging the funeral of any person who has died within our boundary, other than in hospital, where it appears that no other agency or persons are making suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body. These are commonly known as public health funerals.

Legal requirement

We have a duty under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to "cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or is found to be dead" within Caerphilly county borough, and where it appears "that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being made". People who typically require this type of action are those who die intestate and with no next of kin.

We will only take responsibility for arranging funerals and estates in extreme circumstances.

The council will first try to locate living relatives or friends of the deceased, and in some cases, pass the responsibility on to them. If it is found that there is no one either willing or able to undertake this responsibility, the council will deal with all aspects of arranging the funeral. The council is 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. For more information and to view the Treasury Solicitor's Estates register visit the Bona Vacantia website.

When does a public health funeral take place?

The council normally acts on instructions received from the local Coroner's office. In some instances the managers of residential homes and sheltered accommodation advise us of circumstances where a death has occurred within their accommodation and, as far as they know, there are no living relatives.

What happens next?

Where the Coroner has notified us of a death the first thing we do is to collect the deceased's personal effects from the police.

Where known, or where the death has been notified by the manager of a residential home or sheltered accommodation, the residence of the deceased will be searched to try to find a Will or any other documents that will indicate the existence of any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences, and to locate funds to pay for the funeral.

Exclusions

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

We would 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 would take responsibility. It is also understood that the hospital authorities would require reimbursement should any money later become available to enable this.

We would not normally undertake funeral arrangements if the next of kin were in receipt of benefits, as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would pay most, if not all, of the funeral costs; although this would of course be dependent on what was requested of the funeral director. It is sensible to inform a funeral director straight away of all or any financial limitation so that they can ensure that the arrangements made are kept within a client's means.

Burial or cremation?

As there is no crematorium in Caerphilly county borough, most public health funerals are burials.

If the deceased person has left any paperwork, or had previously advised someone with whom the council has made contact, that they specifically wanted to be cremated, the council will make arrangements for a cremation service with its nominated funeral director.

In either case an appropriate ceremony would be arranged (as far as possible) in accordance with the deceased's known beliefs and wishes.

The cremated remains of the deceased would be scattered in the gardens of remembrance unless other specific instructions are found amongst the deceased's possessions, or in a Will. However, any costs associated with specific instructions must first be met through the deceased's estate, or by family members. Where a family member wishes to retain the remains then they must be collected from the crematorium or funeral director by that person.

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.

For further information about Funeral Payments, Bereavement Payments and Bereavement Allowances visit our help with funeral costs section.

If you need to speak to us concerning funeral arrangements please contact Bereavement Services.

Freedom of Information

We are receiving an increasing number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 concerning how many national assistance burials have been passed to the Treasury Solicitor.

The document below provides the details of these cases and will be updated within 10 days of undertaking a funeral or if we later refer a matter to the Treasury Solicitor.

Public health burials – disclosure log (PDF 34kb)

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