Sometimes referred to as ‘pauper’s funerals’, Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 confers a statutory duty on Local Authorities and Hospitals/Health Trusts to “to cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or been found dead in their area, in any case where it appears to the authority that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been made or are being made otherwise”.

Despite the name, funerals carried out by Local Authorities and Hospitals, on the whole, tend to be indistinguishable from a funeral arranged and paid for by a member of the public.

Funerals are arranged by District and Unitary councils and Hospitals. Staff carrying out these arrangements will work in a number of different departments such as Social Care, Environmental Health, Community Services, Refuse & Waste and Housing. Often the task is left to one officer with minimal support.

In recent years, numbers of such funerals have soared thanks to rising funeral costs and the increase in people dying alone. A Royal London report found that councils spent £4 million on public health funerals in 2015/16, an increase of 12 percent over the last five years. At the same time, the cost of public health funerals increased by 36 percent.

Freedom of Information data from 260 local authorities showed that some 3,784 public health funerals took place in 2015/16. The biggest percentage increase in public health act funerals was for councils in the East of England – up 36 percent.

London local authorities saw the largest financial increase in costs, with a 51 percent increase in the average funeral cost – £1,004 in 2015/16, compared to £666 in 2011/12.

This website is intended as a guide for staff in Local Authorities and Hospitals who perform this task, to ensure that they have support from colleagues who carry out the same duties across England and Wales.

The forum is open to any member of staff with a email address and is closed to general view, providing a secure place for staff to share experience and ideas.