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Public health burials

Last updated on: 18-Nov-2020

Freedom of Information

Under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984, when a resident in the area passes away the council has a duty to make arrangements for the funeral, if living relatives cannot be found, or are unable to pay for any funeral expenses. Public health funerals are also known as national assistance, welfare or pauper funerals.

We are frequently asked for information about public health funerals, people who have died with no known next of kin, bona vacantia estates and estates which have been referred to the Treasury Solicitor, or Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall. In response to these requests we publish details of these funerals. This information is supplied by financial year since 2013/14 onwards and the listings contain all the information we hold that can be made publicly available.

There are relatively few public health funerals in the Borough of Gravesham and therefore we consider that publication of this information at quarterly intervals is reasonable. The provision of updated information before the next planned update will be exempted under Section 22 of the FOI Act, as it is information we hold with the intention of publishing at a future date, as specified above.

We apply the following exemptions to the release of any further information about public health funerals, people who have died with no known next of kin, bona vacantia estates and estates which have been referred to the Treasury Solicitor, or Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall.

Section 21 – information reasonably accessible by other means

All deaths in Gravesham are registered. The death certificates contain details of the deceased’s date / place of birth, marital status and any maiden names. As such we consider that information to be exempt as it is reasonably accessible via the Registry Office.

Section 31 – law enforcement (prevention and detection of crime)

Revealing details of any assets of an estate before the Treasury Solicitor has undertaken their own enquiries would provide an opportunity for criminal acts to be committed (for example, theft or fraud). Similarly we would have concerns about making the last known address of the deceased public, as the property is likely to be unoccupied and may still contain the deceased’s personal papers and effects. There is also a continuing risk after the estate has been secured of, for example, identity theft. Taking into account the above issues, the council considers that there is no over-riding public interest in releasing this information. Any public interest would be best served by upholding the exemption under Section 31 of the Act as disclosure would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the committing of offences.

Section 40(2) – personal data of third parties

The council sometimes makes arrangements for a funeral to take place if living relatives are unable to pay for any funeral expenses. Details of those funerals are not published as release could lead to the identification of these relatives, which could cause distress to them.

We have however published details of the total number of public health funerals arranged - which includes those with known next of kin and no known next of kin.

Deceased persons

You can download a spreadsheet with the information of all public health burials since 2012/13 below:

Public health burials FOI data

If you are unable to view the above spreadsheet and require it in a different format, please contact accessbility@gravesham.gov.uk.

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