Public Health Funerals Birmingham event – 2nd May 2019

Funding a funeral assistance programme through National Insurance contributions was one suggestion from council officers whom discussed the ongoing issues with Public Health Act Funerals at the Finders International sponsored conference in Birmingham.

Delegates discussed the subject of service provision and what should or shouldn’t be provided by local authorities. It was clear that practices differ across the country with some authorities opting for cremation, whilst others undertake burials. It was also obvious throughout the discussions that council staff care deeply about the service they provide.

The most recent legislation, written in the early 1980’s, only applies to England and Wales with legislation for Scotland dating back even further, to post-war Britain. The current legislation does not take into account social factors or set minimum standards for councils to follow.  Officers at last week’s event were particularly concerned about the lack of clear guidelines, and they voiced a desire to see minimum standards introduced, so that there can be parity of service across the country.

Funding for the role is sparse and erratic, and with some authorities reporting that they have no budgets for Public Health Act Funerals, many officers would like to see new legislation that facilitates access to revenue for this important social service.

One of the suggestions discussed was for a national scheme, funded by increased National Insurance contributions, to pay funeral expenses once a person dies. This would ensure that each individual gets a basic, dignified funeral. This would need to be administered from a national perspective, perhaps replacing the current means tested contributions delivered by the DWP’s Social Fund.

David Lockwood, Finders International conference host, said that this “was the beginning of a process for council officers to influence legislation.” He continued, “Finders International will support staff through the process, encouraging other organisations to join in the conversation with councils.” He concluded, “We are committed to helping local authorities as they continue to experience the effects of funding cuts. It’s important that councils get support to provide this often overlooked but vital service, and it is evident that councils across the country implement their statutory duty in a number of different ways…practice is so varied because the law is far too vague.”

Finders will hold another conference in 2020 in London.