Case Study B

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Case Study A

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PHA Funerals - "Unfit for purpose"

The legislation that gives local authorities the statutory powers to carry out funerals is not fit for purpose.

That’s what council officers told us at the second Finders International Public Health Act Funerals conference, which took place on 2nd May this year, and was attended by representatives of councils from all over England and Wales.

The legislation, which has been in place for more than thirty years, does not consider how attitudes have changed towards funerals in society and how we carry out funerals. Families are more fragmented and don’t necessarily feel obliged to make funeral arrangements for next of kin they may have had little or no contact with. Given recent rises in the amount of funerals undertaken by local authorities, it is only set to increase in the near future.

Minimum standards

Council officers at the conference felt that any reform should set out a minimum standard, although they could not agree on how this might be enforced. Some local authorities opt to cremate whilst others bury, but there is no standard practice. Should legislation make sure a deceased person’s wishes are adhered to (if they are known) and how would this be done?

As the Competition and Markets Authority is carrying out a review of the funeral industry in the wake of rising costs and is proposing a funerals regulator, perhaps the role of ensuring standards could be placed with them?

The majority thought that the word ‘paupers’ should not be used, with some officers reporting they found it to be offensive. Officers felt that the word does not show the deceased dignity and respect.

Little to no funding

Another point raised at the conference is that there is little or no funding within authorities for the provision of statutory funerals. Further discussions took place about a national funeral fund, with a radical suggestion that there should be a state grant paid from National Insurance contributions.

Certainly, everyone agreed that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund is not fit for purpose, and a new way of state assistance needs to be found. The vast majority reported how difficult it is for people to claim and how little they receive to pay towards funerals from the DWP.

Staff have called for better awareness of their role by financial institutions. Once a person dies, GDPR does not apply to the deceased. Many officers reported their experiences where banks and other institutions make it extremely difficult for them to discover if the deceased left any assets.

Access to online accounts

They also said it was difficult to access the deceased’s emails and social media accounts, as sometimes emails and social media accounts can help officers trace families easily and quickly.

David Lockwood, Finders International Public Sector Development Manager and a former Public Health Act Funerals Officer, said: “It’s clear how dedicated council officers are in providing the best service possible despite the severe financial restrictions in place.

“These officers deserve the recognition for the service they provide to their communities and their continued dedication. We at Finders International do everything possible to support them with our free events and the advice we offer on our website, and we will continue to do so.”

Finders International has a funeral fund that can be used by public sector bodies to subsidise public health act funerals in cases that meet the criteria. Find out more about our service here.

Presentations – Public health act funerals conference – 18/04/18

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Finders International Funeral Fund Helps Doncaster Council With Costs

We were delighted to be able to put our Finders International Funeral Fund to good use recently in the case of a Doncaster man who died earlier this year with no apparent next of kin.

We were contacted by Doncaster Council, who applied for the fund. We set the fund up two years ago in response to the growing number of Public Health funerals (sometimes referred to as ‘pauper’ funerals). The cost to local authorities in 2015 was £1.7 million, and this figure is bound to have
increased since then.

Section 46 (1) Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 places a duty on councils to “cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or been found dead in their area” where it appears there are no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being

Councils are obliged to do everything in their power to locate living relatives or friends of the deceased to pass this responsibility on, but in some cases, no friends or family can be found.

The insurance company Sunlife calculates that the average cost of dying in the UK is now a whopping £8,905 – a 1.2 percent rise in a year and an increase of more than 50 percent since the business first started tracking this cost ten years ago.

Sunlife’s figure comes from the cost of a basic funeral, the send-off (flowers, venue hire, catering, limos, a gravestone etc.) and hiring a professional to administer the dead person’s estate.

Doncaster Council applied to the fund to help with the funeral costs of a 66-year-old man who died in February with no known next of kin. We carried out research to confirm this and found it to be correct. We were able to pay for half the costs of the funeral.

Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director, said: “At Finders International, giving back to the community is part of our ethos. We were delighted to be able to help in this case. If the trend for the increase in Public Health funerals and costs continues, it’s likely this will reach a staggering £5 million by the year 2030, expenditures that our hard-pushed local authorities cannot afford.

“When councils apply for a subsidy payment from us, we carry out the research to check if there are genuinely no family members who can pay, rather than next of kin who just refuse to pay. Then, we will award payments from the fund if the criteria are met.”

To find out more about the Finders International Funeral Fund, see the information here. You can also contact us on 0800 085 8796 or email [email protected]

Registering the death and arranging the funeral

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