Public Health Funerals


This information has been created to describe the role of a local authority in the arrangement of public health funerals. It also provides information to answer requests for information held by the authority in relation to arranged funerals.


Public Health or Welfare Funerals

Under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 local authorities are responsible for the disposal of deceased persons in their area, either by cremation or burial, where no other arrangements have or are likely to be made.

We are not automatically responsible for arranging a funeral where there are relatives or others willing to make the arrangements themselves. If relatives are on a low income and claiming certain benefits they may be entitled to a Funeral Payment from the Social Fund

If there are relatives who are not prepared or able to accept responsibility for the funeral arrangements, then the council has a duty to and will recover costs from the estate. Assets recovered from a deceased person's property may be sold to assist in the funding of the funeral arrangements.

The council cannot become involved if funeral arrangements have already been made or the funeral has taken place. Anyone giving instructions to a funeral director will be responsible for any costs incurred.

If the deceased made a will, we cannot become involved in the undertaking of the funeral arrangements unless the executor revokes the will.

Welfare funeral staff have statutory authorisation to enter a property, under the provisions of section 61(1)(d) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, to ascertain the extent of the estate and to remove any items or assets which may assist in funding the funeral.

The funeral

Usually a cremation will be arranged at Chiltern or Slough Crematorium and the remains will be scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. However if it is established that the religion or wishes of the deceased forbids cremation a burial may be considered. In exceptional circumstances and only on request will the cremated remains may be given into the care of a close family member.

The funeral director will provide a dignified funeral with a coffin taken to the crematorium or cemetery in a hearse attended by bearers and arrangements will be made for a minister or representative of the relevant faith of the deceased to conduct the service in accordance with that faith. If a non-religious service is appropriate, then this will be respected.

What costs the council can reclaim

Under Section 46 Subsection (1) of the Public Health (Control Disease Act) 1984 the funeral costs are the first expenses claimed on any estate. We are entitled to collect any and all sums of money due to or belonging to the deceased and to sell any belongings of the deceased in order to help offset the costs of the funeral and expenses.

If, after we have deducted the funeral and associated costs:

  •  the remaining estate is over £500;

  •  there are no other bills outstanding; and

  •  there is no known next of kin

We will refer the remaining estate to the Treasury Solicitor in accordance with their guidelines for referring Bona Vacantia estates.

It is at this point we will make information public on this web page.