Deaths and funerals

5. Public health burials

Public health funerals are also known as pauper's funerals and national assistance funerals

What is the council's role?

We will make appropriate funeral arrangements where it appears that no other person is willing or able to make the necessary arrangements. Where possible we will recover funeral expenses from monies available from the deceased's estate to limit the cost to the people of Gravesham.

The council does not provide a funeral service. However, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, we have a statutory duty to make arrangements for the funeral or cremation of the body of any person who has died or found dead in the borough, where it is established after investigation that there is no alternative course of action.

If a person dies without a known next of kin we normally act on written instructions received from the local coroner's officer. In some instances the managers of residential homes and sheltered accommodation advise of circumstances and, as far as they know, there are no relatives willing or able to make the funeral arrangements.

Who pays for the funeral?

We will use any estate of the deceased (their property and possessions) to cover the cost of arranging the funeral.

If the deceased lived in a private rented property or social housing, we will liaise with the landlord to recover any financial information including bank statements once right of entry has been granted.

If the deceased owns their property, you or any other party must not enter the property to remove any valuables or goods, as we will refer the case to the Treasury Solicitor.

If family or friends have already removed any possessions from where the deceased lived, these may need to be returned to the Council to help offset the funeral costs.

The Funeral Service

The Council's preferred funeral directors will provide everything necessary for a simple but dignified service, including a coffin, transport of the deceased to the crematorium or cemetery in a hearse, and sufficient bearers to transfer the coffin to the chapel. The funeral director will also arrange for a minister of religion or a representative of the faith of the deceased to lead the service. If a non-religious service is appropriate, a civil funeral celebrant will be used. Any known family and friends will be advised of the date and time of the funeral and are able to attend if they wish to do so. To the casual observer, the funeral will appear no different to a simple ceremony not arranged by the Council.