Public health funerals are also known as national assistance funerals and paupers' funerals.
Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, we have a duty to make arrangements for the funeral or cremation of the body of anyone who has died or is found dead in the borough, where it is established after investigation that there is no alternative course of action.
Where possible we will recover funeral expenses from monies available from the deceased's estate. This limits the cost to the people of City of York.
If a person dies without a known next of kin, we normally act on written instructions received from the local coroner's office. Sometimes, the managers of residential homes and sheltered accommodation advise of circumstances where, as far as they know, there are no relatives willing or able to make the funeral arrangements.
Where the coroner has notified us of a death and, as far as they are aware, there is no one willing to make funeral arrangements, we will search the deceased person’s home. We will try to find a will or any documents that show the existence of any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.
What happens at a public health funeral
If nobody is prepared to arrange the funeral we will take responsibility for the funeral arrangements. This includes:
- registration of the death
- instructing a funeral director to collect the body
- providing a coffin
- transporting the deceased to the crematorium
We will tell any known family and friends the date and time of the funeral. They can attend if they wish to do so.
Burial or cremation
Unless there is evidence that the deceased would have been against cremation we will make arrangements for a cremation. This will take place at York Crematorium.
If the person has left paperwork or told family or friends that they wanted to be buried we will make suitable arrangements for burial.
In either case, a time will be allocated within the crematorium chapel for family and friends to pay their respects.
It may not be possible for us to find out if the deceased was religious or not, but we are happy to liaise with family and friends. If they wish to arrange for a minister or officiant to take the service they will be able to do so at their own expense. If a minister or an officiant is chosen we would suggest that they are given the opportunity to speak to family and friends before the service to make the service a bespoke and personal one.
The cremated remains of the deceased will be interred in the gardens of remembrance unless other specific instructions are found amongst the deceased possessions or in a will. Any costs associated with specific instructions must be met through the deceased's estate or by family members or friends.
If a family member wishes to keep the remains then they must be collected from the crematorium. It is not possible to arrange for remains to be couriered without full payment in advance.
For a burial a service can be held at the graveside. It is only normally the lack of a memorial that distinguishes the grave. No memorial is permitted on the grave unless the exclusive right of burial is purchased.
The cost of the funeral is usually met out of the estate of the deceased. If there are insufficient funds the executor is personally liable.
Where the deceased has not left a will the person arranging the funeral is liable to meet the funeral costs. This is normally the next of kin.
If the next of kin is not prepared to arrange and pay for the funeral (for example where there are insufficient funds in the estate) they will be asked to make a written statement to confirm that they are not prepared to do this.
Funeral payments from the Social Fund
If the next of kin receives certain benefits or tax credits, then they may be entitled to a funeral payment from the Social Fund. You can find more information about funeral payments on GOV.UK.
Property and personal effects
If the deceased left furniture or other personal effects, arrangements will be made to dispose of these items. If possible, property is sold and the money offset against the cost of the funeral.
When all costs are known we inform the Treasury Solicitor under rules set down by the Secretary of State.