Costs Soar for Public Health Act Funerals

Finders International will bring together public-sector staff in April to discuss Public Health Funerals

The event is the first of its kind and is open to anyone providing statutory funerals in England and Wales. A wide range of speakers will be on hand to discuss relevant issues. Finders International administers a funeral fund for local authorities and health trusts, which can be used to pay for the costs of a public health act funeral.

Sometimes referred to as ‘pauper’s funerals’, the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 confers a statutory duty on councils and health boards 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”.

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.

What’s included in a public health act funeral? The service varies between authorities with no standard procedure, but it usually involves the collection and storage of a body, a coffin (basic, or standard), burial in a public grave or cremation, and vehicle/bearers to transport and help in the burial of the deceased.
A public grave is an unpurchased grave which doesn’t allow for the purchase of a monument or memorial and may be shared with another person. A public health act funeral might also involve what is called direct burial or cremation. This means the body is buried or burned without a service to mark the occasion.

Because of the pressure on numbers of burial sites, increasing numbers of local authorities must opt for cremation rather than burial. Cremations are cheaper too.
David Lockwood, Finders International’s public sector development manager, said: “As an ethical organisation, it’s important for Finders International to give something back to the area in which we work. Finders has pledged to put £10,000 a year into this important fund.

“The conference, which takes place on 18 April at The Studio in Birmingham, will bring together speakers who have extensive experience in this field, and staff members who can network with other councils to look at areas of best practice.”

If you are interested in attending this event, please book your place by contacting David Lockwood on 020 7490 4935 or 07753 306885 or email: [email protected] More information about the Finders International Funeral Fund here.