Public Health Funerals

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council is responsible for making funeral arrangements for anybody who dies within their boundary if:
  • no funeral arrangements have been made
  • no relatives of the deceased can be found, or
  • the relatives of the deceased cannot or will not arrange a funeral.

This responsibility is placed on the Council by Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. The Act also states that the Council may recover all their costs incurred in making the funeral arrangements from the estate (property and possessions) of the deceased.

In most instances; we are notified of a death by the Coroners Officer. The Coroners Office is involved in the investigation of certain deaths (for example; where the cause of death is uncertain). In these cases; the Coroners Officers will make attempts to trace any relatives of the deceased. The Coroners Office may put notices in the press or on the radio to try to contact relatives or friends to inform them of the death.

If the Coroners Office is unable to trace any relatives; or no person is willing or able to organise and/or pay for a funeral; then the Coroners Office will notify the Council of the death.

We may also receive notification from hospitals if a person has been found to be deceased upon arrival at hospital (and the Coroners Office is not involved in the investigation of the death); and there are no persons or relatives to arrange and/or pay for the funeral.

We may also be notified of a death by residential homes; hospices and nursing homes.

When the Council will not accept the case

There are a number of situations where the Council is not responsible for organising a funeral and therefore will not accept the case:
  • If the person in question died outside of the Redcar and Cleveland boundary, the funeral arrangements will be the responsibility of the local authority where they died, even if they had lived in Redcar and Cleveland.
  • If funeral arrangements have already been made, or the funeral has already taken place, the Council will not be able to get involved and will not provide any funding for the funeral arrangements. If you are unable to pay for the funeral and are claiming benefits or tax credits, you may be entitled to a Funeral Payment from the Department for Work and Pensions. For more information go to www.gov.uk
  • If the deceased left a will and the executor is traced. In these circumstances the executor would be expected to organise the funeral. If the executor wishes to revoke their duties, they must make a formal renunciation of the will and declare that they wish to have no further involvement in the funeral arrangements.
  • If the deceased died as an in-patient in a hospital managed by an NHS Trust and there are no relatives, the NHS Trust may assume responsibility for the funeral arrangements and recover their expenses from the deceased's estate.

What happens when there are no known relatives?

An officer from the Councils Property and Financial Affairs Team will register the death of the person who has passed away. In most cases, two officers from the team will visit the home of the deceased, in order to search the property for evidence of family members and/or a Will. We will also remove any items of value for safe keeping, and will retrieve financial information to assist in recovering the costs of the funeral. Whilst attending the property the officer will remove any perishable goods, and make sure that the property is safe and secure. More information about the empty homes strategy.

The Council will take reasonable steps to find and contact next of Kin. This is so that they can decide whether to organise or attend the funeral. In certain circumstances when no surviving close relatives have been located, a notice may be placed by the in the press asking for any relatives of the deceased to make contact with the Council. We may also engage the services of a company that specialises in genealogy research to trace any known next of kin.

If we use a genealogy research company, they will trace any next of kin and pass on their details to us so that we can contact them about the funeral. If you are contacted by a genealogy company because a relative has left an estate, please be aware that they may charge a fee to help you claim the estate and will ask you to sign an agreement with them. You are under no obligation to do this. You can choose to make a claim yourself or can sign with an alternative company if you prefer.

If family member details are found and the Coroners Office is involved in the investigation of the death, then we will notify the Coroners Office that next of kin have been located. If the Coroners Office has not been involved, then the Council will contact the relative and ask if they wish to take over the funeral arrangements and/or the payment for the funeral. If family are located, the Council may invoice the deceased estate for costs incurred up to the point of handing over the funeral arrangements. If no family can be located, or the family members do not wish to arrange the funeral, then the property and financial affairs team will arrange the funeral.

Funeral Arrangements

Once the Council has accepted a case, the Property and Financial Affairs Team will deal with all aspects of the organisation of a funeral, including:
  • registering the death where there is no family to do so
  • dealing with the funeral directors to make the arrangements
  • paying for the funeral.

All cases will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect and it will not be possible to tell that this funeral is different to any other. The Council's contracted 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.

A cremation service will normally be held, unless we know that the deceased would have chosen burial for religious, cultural or personal reasons, or if we know that the deceased owned a grave and there is room there for their burial. If a burial is required and the deceased did not own a grave, burial will take place in an unmarked public grave.

The funeral director may 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. Family and friends may attend the funeral service, but will not have any involvement in the planning and arrangements.

Cremated remains will normally be scattered in the Gardens of Remembrance at the crematorium. This will take place within one month of the funeral. In exceptional circumstances the cremated remains may be given into the care of a close family member or friend.

When organising a public health funeral, the Council will not usually pay for additional expenses including, but not limited to a press notice, embalming, church service, funeral cars (other than the hearse), flowers, a wake or post-funeral reception. Exceptions may be made, for example where there is no known family, or if we know that there are sufficient funds in the deceased estate for us to recover the cost of the funeral as well as any additional costs.

Funeral and Administration Costs.

The Council will pay the funeral bill directly. If there are sufficient funds in the deceased estate, we will take steps to recover the expenses. There is also a one off administration fee which will also be recovered from the deceased estate. Occasionally, family will come forward after we have taken on a case and began making arrangements. When this happens, the Council reserves the right to invoice the deceased estate for any time spent administering the case up to the point of handing it over.

The Department for Work and Pension offers funeral support for those on low incomes who need help paying for a funeral. Direct Gov provides more information.

For more information of Public Health Funerals, please contact the Councils Property and Financial Affairs Team on 01642 771644
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Last updated:
27/06/2017

Assigned review date:
23/10/2017

Awaiting page content review by the allocated team


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