Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 places a statutory obligation on local authorities to make funeral arrangements for those who die within the Councils area, without anybody willing or able to make the arrangements. We normally act on instruction from the Coroner’s Office.
Although this is a statutory duty, we also have a moral duty to treat such cases with the utmost dignity and respect, and to ensure that the funeral service is appropriate and indistinguishable from any other.
The Act gives Local Authorities powers to recover from the estate the costs of the funeral and all reasonable costs incurred by the authority such as time taken by officers trying to locate relatives of the deceased and for making arrangements for the funeral. Council officers make all reasonable enquiries to find any relatives and friends of the deceased during their investigation.
If the estate has a value of currently more than £500.00 after costs have been recovered and no next of kin has been located the case will be referred to the Government’s Treasury Solicitor (“Bona Vacantia”). This term literally means vacant goods and is the legal name for ownerless property, which by law passes to the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor is the Crown’s Nominee for the purposes of the administration of the estates of persons who die intestate and without known kin and for the collection of the assets of dissolved companies and other miscellaneous bona vacantia in England and Wales. Treasury Solicitor Bona Vacantia Division
Persons who die in hospital should not be referred to the Local Authority. In this instance the Health Authority or NHS Hospital Trust will take responsibility for tracing relatives and arranging the funeral where necessary.
Help with funeral costs
If you are worried that you are unable to pay for the costs of a relative’s funeral, depending on your circumstances you may be able eligible for assistance. Further information can be obtained from the gov.uk website
Date of last review: 01 December 2016
Frequently Requested Information Regarding Public Health Funerals
We receive a large number of requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 relating to Public Health Funerals carried out by this authority where a person dies with no known next of kin and referrals made in relation to these to the Treasury Solicitor or Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall.
There are relatively few public health funerals within this district; we therefore consider that publication of this information at quarterly intervals is reasonable. The provision of updated information before the next planned update will be exempted under Section 22 of the Act as it is information we hold with the intention of publishing at a future date, as specified above.
There would also be concerns regarding disclosure of the deceased last known address as the property is likely to be unoccupied and may still contain the personal effects of the deceased.
Taking into account these issues we consider that there is no overriding public interest in releasing this information. Any public interest would best be served by upholding the exemption under Section 31 as the disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the commission of offences.
In response to these FOI enquiries we are releasing the following information via the link below for the period January 2014 to date as mentioned above will be updated quarterly.