Public Health Funerals

If someone dies within the area of the Councils and it appears that no arrangements are being made for their funeral, the Councils have a duty under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to make those arrangements.

Public Health, or public assisted, funerals are carried out where there is no next-of-kin, or the next-of-kin cannot be located, or the next-of-kin lack the capacity to arrange the funeral.

This is a public health duty and not a social care function. Details on help with paying for a funeral that you wish to arrange yourself can be found in the ‘Help with funeral costs’ section below.

If the statutory duty is triggered, the Councils will register the death and instruct one of our contracted funeral directors to arrange the funeral.

Public assisted funerals will be cremations unless the Councils have clear evidence that this would be contrary to the deceased’s religious beliefs, cultural background or wishes. 

The Council will only pay for a direct cremation or burial and there will be no service. The cremation will take place at Worthing Crematorium. The Councils will not release ashes from a public assisted funeral and they will be scattered at one of their Gardens of Remembrance.

If next-of-kin or friends have provided contact details, the funeral director will notify them as to the date and time of the cremation so that they can remember the deceased at this time in their own way.

Any costs incurred by the Councils can be recovered as a first debt on the estate of the deceased. This can include the sale of valuable assets.

In certain cases where there is an appreciable estate, the Councils may use a genealogy company to trace legal next-of-kin to aid in recovering these costs.

Help with funeral costs

If you need help to pay for the funeral of a family member that you are arranging and are in receipt of certain benefits you may be eligible to receive a Funeral Expenses Payment from the Department of Work and Pensions. How much you will get will depend on your circumstances, but it will not usually cover all the costs of a funeral. See:

Public Assisted Funerals: Freedom of Information requests

Any requests for the name, address and date of birth of persons whose funeral has been arranged by the Councils:

  • Adur & Worthing Councils consider that the information sought is exempt from disclosure under section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the basis that disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the commission of offences.
  • Adur & Worthing Councils consider that the information sought is accessible elsewhere (section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act) or is intended for future publication by the Treasury Solicitor's Department (of the Freedom of Information Act section 22) see:
    Bona Vacantia - on the GOV.UK website

Further information regarding how to make a Freedom of Information request can be found on our:

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Page last updated: 15 May 2024

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