Public Health Funerals and Exhumations

Help paying for a funeral

If you are a person arranging a funeral and are on a low income, you may be able to seek financial help from the DWP Social Fund. For further information, please visit:

Additionally, the website Funeral Choice compares Funeral Director prices to help families find an affordable funeral director.

Furthermore, the organisation Quaker Social Action helps families arrange an affordable funeral. They can help look at all available options, keep costs affordable and identify ways to raise money for a funeral. For further information please visit  Quaker Social Action.

What is a public health funeral?

If somebody dies and they have no known relatives or any friends who are able to arrange their funeral, the Council may arrange a public health funeral. This is also known as paupers' burial and sadly often takes place for people who have no fixed abode.

The Council does not provide a funeral service. However, we have a statutory duty under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to make arrangements for the funeral of somebody who has died or has been found dead in our borough where it appears that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of their body have been, or are being made.

The Council are usually notified of a public health funeral from the local Coroner's Office. If the person has died in hospital, then the responsibility for making the arrangements falls to the local authority where the hospital is based.

What happens?

After being notified of a death, the Council will collect the deceased person's belongings. If the address of where the deceased person lived or stayed is known, we will search their home and try to find a will or any other documents to tell us if they have any relatives.

If the person's death had not been registered, the Council will arrange this.

If a will is found, the executor will be asked to arrange the funeral and the Council will take no further action.

Paying for a public health funeral

Where possible, the Council will pay for the funeral using money from the deceased person's estate. The funeral will be very basic but respectful. Any money from the estate left over after paying for the funeral will be referred to the Government Legal Department. For more information on the Government Legal Department, please visit their website.

What happens to the deceased's belongings?

If the deceased lived in rented accommodation, the landlord will be responsible for clearing the premises after the Council has satisfied themselves that there are no items of value. Similarly, if the deceased lived in a residential home, the home is accountable for the remaining belongings.

As stated above, any money from the estate left over after paying for the funeral will be referred to the Government Legal Department.


Exhumations are very rare and can take a long time to arrange.

Exhumations can occur for various reasons such as:

  • To open an inquest
  • To cremate a buried body
  • Public health reason
  • To recover items
  • To establish the identity of a body
  • Medical reasoning
  • Criminal investigation

A licence from the Home Office is generally required and may require an Environmental Health Officer to be present at the exhumation of a body to ensure that public health is protected.

List of funerals arranged by the council

The funerals list is updated on a monthly basis.

Public Health Funerals list [pdf] 120KB

If you require any further guidance, please contact us on 01268 882200 or via email