Public health funerals - the council's role

Public health funerals are also known as national assistance funerals and paupers' funerals.

What is the council's role?

We will make appropriate funeral arrangements where it appears that no other person is willing or able to make the necessary arrangements. Where possible we will recover funeral expenses from monies available from the deceased's estate to limit the cost to the people of Bracknell Forest. We aim to comply with the requirements in a sympathetic manner.

The council does not provide a funeral service. However, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, we have a statutory duty to make arrangements for the funeral or cremation of the body of any person who has died or found dead in the borough, where it is established after investigation that there is no alternative course of action.

If a person dies without a known next of kin we normally act on written instructions received from the local coroner's officer. In some instances the managers of residential homes and sheltered accommodation advise of circumstances and, as far as they know, there are no relatives willing or able to make the funeral arrangements.

What happens next?

Where the coroner has notified us of a death where, as far as he is aware, there is no one willing to make funeral arrangements we will search the deceased person’s home to try and find a will or any documents that will indicate the existence of any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.

Where we find details of family and friends they will be informed of the death and invited to make the funeral arrangements.

Close relatives or partners will be asked to confirm in writing that they are not prepared to make arrangements for the funeral.

Who pays for the funeral?

The cost of the funeral is usually met out of the estate of the deceased. If there are insufficient funds the executor is personally liable.

Where the deceased has not left a will the person arranging the funeral (normally their next of kin) is liable to meet the funeral costs.

If the next of kin is not prepared to arrange and pay for the funeral (for example where there are insufficient funds in the estate) they will be asked to make a written statement to confirm that they are not prepared to do this.

Funeral payments and the Social Fund

If the next of kin receives one of the following, then they may be entitled to a funeral payment from the Social Fund:

  • income support
  • job seekers allowance (income based)
  • housing benefit
  • council tax benefit
  • disabled persons tax credit/working families tax credit

You can find more information about funeral payments on the GOV.UK website.

When and where will the funeral be held?

If nobody is prepared to arrange the funeral we will take responsibility for the funeral arrangements. This includes registration of the death and instructing a funeral director to collect the body, provide a coffin and transport the deceased to the crematorium.

Any known family and friends will be advised of the date and time of the funeral and are able to attend if they wish to do so.

Burial or cremation?

Unless there is evidence that the deceased would have been against cremation the funeral arrangements will be made for a cremation at Easthampstead Park Cemetery and Crematorium. If the person has left paperwork or told family or friends that they wanted to be buried suitable arrangements for burial will be made. In either case a time will be allocated within the crematorium chapel for family and friends to pay their respects.

Religious services

It may not be possible for us to ascertain if the deceased was religious or non-religious but we are happy to liaise with family and friends. If they wish to arrange for a minister or officiant to take the service they will be able to do so at their own expense. If a minister or officiant is chosen we would advise that they are given the opportunity to speak to family and friends before the service to make the service a bespoke and personal one.

If a burial has been decided on then a service can be held at the graveside and it is only normally the lack of a memorial that distinguishes the grave. No memorial is permitted on the grave unless the exclusive right of burial is purchased.

Cremated remains

The cremated remains of the deceased will be scattered in the gardens of remembrance unless other specific instructions are found amongst the deceased possessions or in a will. Any costs associated with specific instructions must however first be met either through the deceased's estate or by family members or friends. Where a family member wishes to retain the remains then they must be collected from the crematorium. We regret it is not possible to arrange for remains to be couriered without full payment in advance.

What happens to the person's property and personal effects?

If the deceased left furniture or other personal effects, arrangements will be made for the disposal of these items. If possible, property is sold and the money offset against the cost of the funeral.

In cases where there are assets that exceed the cost of the funeral, property clearance costs and so on, we arrange the funeral and when all costs are known we inform the Treasury Solicitor in accordance with rules set down by the Secretary of State.

For information about cases referred to the Treasury Solicitor please see GOV.UK - Bona Vacantia.

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