Public health funerals

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Public health funerals - what are they?

Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 local authorities are obliged to organise a funeral for any person who has died in their area where it appears that no suitable arrangements have been, or are being made, for a funeral to take place.

We will take responsibility if the person dies on the street or in their own home within our District, and there are no relatives or friends willing to take responsibility (financial or otherwise) for the funeral arrangements.

Notification is normally received via the coroner's office in most cases.

The Local Authorities have contracts with funeral directors. If any person other than the contract funeral director is asked to make arrangements, the Local Authority cannot be responsible for any costs incurred up to that point.

Under normal circumstances the deceased will be cremated unless the Council has any reason to believe such a funeral would be contrary to their wishes or religious beliefs and in such cases a burial would be arranged.

Under the provisions of Section 50 of the National Assistance Act 1948 the Council has the power to recover the costs of any funeral from the estate of the deceased or from anyone who was caring for them immediately before their death. Decisions on such matters will be made purely on a case by case basis once all facts regarding their affairs have been established.

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What do we do?

We will deal with all aspects of the organisation of a public assisted funeral:

  • Registering the death
  • Dealing with the undertakers and organising the details of the funeral
  • Involving friends and relatives of the deceased in the process
  • Paying for the funeral
  • Seek to recover our expenses from any estate left by the deceased

We will not:

  • Accept part payment for funerals
  • Contribute to the costs of funerals organised by other persons
  • Administer Estates on behalf of others

If any estate remains after we have recovered our expenses and the deceased has no living blood relatives the Council will refer the estate to the Government's Treasury Solicitor for final administration.

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Assistance with costs of funerals

The Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) have a social fund which may be accessed by relatives of the deceased should you require help to cover the costs of a cremation or burial. To find out what you are entitled to and how to apply for it you should obtain a copy of the Leaflet 'What to do after a death - Information about what to do after a death' (DWP28). This should be available at all local Benefits Offices or can be downloaded through the link below:

Further useful information on 'What to do after a death' can be found on the Directgov website:

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Freedom of Information requests

Adur & Worthing Councils receive enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for details of public assisted funerals.

Details of such funerals carried out by Adur District or Worthing Borough Councils are shown in the table below:

Any requests for the name, address and date of birth of the deceased are not disclosed for the following reasons:

  • 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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