What is a public health funeral?

funeral flowers arrangement

More people in the UK are choosing direct cremations to reduce costs when planning a funeral. But there are still people who can’t cover this cost and need to turn to their local council. This is where public health funerals can help.

What is a public health funeral?

A public health funeral (previously known as a ‘pauper’s funeral’) is a very basic funeral that’s organised and paid for by the council where the person died.

What is a ‘pauper’s funeral’? And where did the term come from?

A ‘pauper’s funeral’ is an old term for a public health funeral. It came from the poor laws that were developed from the Medieval and Tudor eras in the late 1500s. But ‘paupers’ funerals’ were more common in the 1800s when more people lived in workhouses and had no way of paying for funerals. This poor relief system continued up until the Second World War when the modern welfare system was introduced.

Who’s eligible for a public health funeral?

Public health funerals are for people who have died and:

For example, someone might have a public health funeral if:

In these cases local councils must provide public health funerals under section 46 of the Public Health Act 1984. This is to protect the public’s health and make sure that all people are treated with respect whatever their circumstances.

Local councils don’t have any public health funeral guidance from the government so each local authority has its own policy on what is and isn’t included. So if you approach your local authority make sure you check what their public health funeral policy is like. We’ve provided more info on what can be included as part of a council funeral below.

What happens at a public health funeral?

A public health funeral is usually a cremation. But if the person who passed away didn’t want to be cremated for personal or religious reasons the local authority must respect this.

The local council will usually:

The local authority will arrange the burial or cremation but they don’t have to provide a funeral service, although some local councils will. If they do, they’ll provide a very simple service in line with the beliefs of the person who died. This could mean that a representative from their religious community may be able to attend.

The local council won’t pay for any extras like:

Can you attend a public health funeral?

When a service is offered family can attend. But it depends on the local authority’s policy. Some councils may let family attend but you might not be able to get involved in the service.

The local council might place a notice in a local newspaper or on their own website with the date and time of the service so that other people can attend. This is especially important if the person who died had no family, and friends would like to pay their respects.

If no one is expected to show up for the funeral local council representatives sometimes attend as a sign of respect.

What happens after a public health funeral service?

If the person is buried

If the person who died is going to be buried after a local authority funeral service, it’ll be in a grave with no marker (previously known as a ‘pauper’s grave’). This means that no gravestone or plaque is allowed.

It could also be a communal grave. This means that other people’s coffins may already be buried in the plot. The plot could also be reopened at a later date for other burials.

If the person is cremated

What happen to the ashes after a public health funeral? They’ll be kept by the crematorium until a family member or close friend comes to collect them. The crematorium staff will usually let you know how long they’ll keep the ashes before making other arrangements. If no one comes to collect the ashes they’ll either bury them in an unmarked plot or scatter them in the crematorium gardens.

How to apply for a public health funeral

Local councils across the UK organise public health funerals for lots of people who die without any family or friends to make the arrangements for them. But there are some instances where the local authority has to step in because family members simply can’t afford to pay for the funeral.

This is usually a last resort and you’ll need to prove that you can’t pay for the funeral in any other way. So before approaching your local council about organising a public health funeral you’ll need to explore all your options.

You’ll need to think about:

If you and your family have looked at other ways to pay for the funeral and aren’t eligible then your local council should take on the arrangements for you. You’ll be asked to sign a statement explaining why you’re unable to arrange the funeral and the council will take it from there.

If you’re struggling to find the right person to speak to at your local council contact the Down To Earth helpline for advice.

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Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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What is a Direct Cremation?

A Direct Cremation is an alternative to the traditional funeral. This involves the cremation of the deceased without a funeral service. A Direct Cremation is generally the most economic option because costs of the coffin, preparation of the body, funeral service and expensive transportation are not included. However, many people choose Direct Cremations for reasons other than expense, for example:

  • - Wanting to have a memorial at a different time to the cremation
  • - Expressed desire from the deceased to not have a ceremony
  • - Individuals with relatives who face big physical or geographical challenges in coming together for a ceremony

The prices quoted for Direct Cremations include:

  • All charges, meetings and paperwork for the cremation
  • Collection of deceased and care prior to cremation
  • A simple coffin and urn for the ashes
  • Cremation fees and delivery of ashes to the family
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Attended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees for an Attended Funeral, which is where family and friends have a ceremony or service for the deceased person at the same time as they attend their burial or cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Taking care of all necessary legal and administrative arrangements
  • Collecting and transporting the deceased person from the place of death (normally within 15 miles of the funeral director’s premises) into the funeral director’s care
  • Care of the deceased person before the funeral in appropriate facilities.
  • Providing a suitable coffin
  • Optional viewing of the deceased person for family and friends, by appointment with the funeral director
  • At a date and time you agree with the funeral director, taking the deceased person direct to the agreed cemetery or crematorium (normally within 20 miles of the funeral director’s premises) in a hearse or other appropriate vehicle

In addition to the Funeral Director’s fee, there will be third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements) to cover the other aspects of a funeral (such as the crematorium or burial fees). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to provide these for you.

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Unattended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees and the crematorium fee for an Unattended Funeral, which is where family and friends may choose to have a ceremony, event or service for the deceased person, but they do not attend the burial or cremation itself. This is also known as a Direct Cremation.

This price includes the following:

  • Funeral Director's fees
  • Crematorium fee (for an unattended funeral) as selected by the Funeral Director

In addition to this fee, there might be additional third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to explain these for you.

If you wish to attend the funeral, you should view the “Attended Funeral” price instead.

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Why is this price Estimated?

We work hard to ensure the Funeral Director Fees we display are accurate and up to date. However, unlike with our partners, we cannot guarantee this price is correct today.

Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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Funeral Choice charity donation

To redeem the £20 charity donation all you have to do is select the charity from the dropdown list in the Make Contact form. Once you have confirmed arrangements with that funeral director send us an email to info@yourfuneralchoice.com confirming the service has been arranged. After we receive this email we will make the donation to the chosen charity and confirm back to you.

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