Public health funerals information and statistics

Cornwall Council, Town and Parish, and the Police and Crime Commissioner elections information and results.


Legislation

The law ensures that no deceased body goes unburied or cremated. This inlcudes the absence or refusal on the part of the Next of Kin to make suitable arrangements.

The law that governs local authority funerals is the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984

Funeral arrangements

We carry out public health funerals where no other arrangements are made. This is usually where there are no known relatives to make arrangements or relatives do not wish or are unable to make the funeral arrangements.

We will consider the wishes of the deceased for burial or cremation. We will not cremate a body if we have reason to believe that would be against the wishes of the deceased. If we are not aware of any preference, we will provide the most cost effective option. This is normally cremation.

If the person died outside of Cornwall, the funeral arrangements are the responsibility of the local authority where they died, even if they had lived in Cornwall.

Referrals

Cases may be referred from a variety of sources. These can include:

  • family or friends of the deceased
  • the Coroner’s Office
  • the Police
  • a residential or care home where the deceased was residing
  • Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust
  • a department within Cornwall Council for example Adult Social Care.

When we receive a referral the Case Office will try to gain as much information as possible from the informant. This will allow us to determine whether the case can be considered to be a Public Health Funeral.

The Case Officer, accompanied by another officer, is required to carry out a property inspection of the last known address of the deceased. The purpose of this is to look for and locate any will and also any next of kin details. The Case Officers undertaking this property inspection will also look for:

  • any money
  • bank statements
  • funeral plans
  • life insurance documents

This is to assist with cost recovery for the expenses that will be incurred by Cornwall Council in carrying out the Public Health Funeral.

Paying for the funeral

We will only pay the funeral costs where the funeral is arranged through our contracted funeral director. 

We will not pay for any costs incurred if

  • a different funeral director is appointed
  • the funeral has been arranged by someone else
  • the funeral has already taken place.

Please refer to the Environment Protection current Fees and Charges for the cost of public health funerals.

We would not normally make funeral arrangements if the next of kin is in receipt of benefits. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would offer assistance to pay most, if not all, of the funeral costs through the Social Fund held by the DWP.

If the deceased had been a resident in a residential or care home we will enquire how their care was being funded. If the deceased was in receipt of social services benefits, our Adult Social Care Service are liable for the funeral costs under Part 3 of the National Assistance Act 1948.

Cost to the council

No public health funeral undertaken and paid for by Cornwall Council costs less than £500. Please see the monthly reports for details of all invoices over £500.  

The monthly reports show how much as been spent on public health funerals. The information can be filtered but pressing "CTRL and F" on your keyboard and searching for "funeral costs" or use the following codes below:

  • 1700B
  • 17300C
  • 173202
  • 57005

Recoving our expenses

The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 gives us the legal power to recover the cost of the funeral from the estate of the deceased.

If there is more than £500.00 left in the estate of the deceased after all costs for funeral arrangements are paid, we must refer the case to the Duchy of Cornwall through their solicitors. This also applies if the deceased owned their own property.

The solicitors acting on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall are Farrer and Co.

  • Legal Executive, Farrer & Co, 66 Lincolns Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3LH. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3375 7351

Fax: +44 (0) 33 75 7556

Website: www.farrer.co.uk

Funeral director and service

We follow a procurement process to enter into a contract with a funeral director. Our contracted funeral director delivers all public health funerals that we arrange.

Public health funerals provided through our contracted funeral director is a basic service. This ensures we conform to the legislation and keep costs to a minimum.

The funeral service

The service includes:

  • collection of the deceased
  • a basic coffin
  • fees for the crematorium or burial
  • one suitable vehicle to transport the deceased
  • a basic service at the crematorium

After the funeral, the ashes are scattered in the garden of remembrance at the crematorium. We do not release ashes to family members. We cannot make any changes to the services provided by our contracted funeral director.

Public Notices

We do not publish details of Public Health Funerals in newspapers and public notice sections.

Information is forwarded to the Duchy of Cornwall where there is residue estate following full cost recovery by Cornwall Council for the Public Health Funeral which has been undertaken. Cornwall Council will then send the information of the deceased to Farrer & Co Solicitors. Farrer & Co solicitors will advertise estates which are being administered by themselves and where searches are being made for any next of kin of the deceased. Such notices are usually published in

  • Sunday Telegraph
  • Daily Mail
  • Western Morning News

Personal details of the deceased and their estate

Section 31(1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is a qualified exemption. It is therefore subject to the Public Interest Test.

This exemption applies where prejudice could be caused to other investigations and to general steps taken in relation to law enforcement in that disclosure of this information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the commission of offences, for instance fraud.

In applying this exemption Cornwall Council had to balance the public interest in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosure.

Although disclosure of this information could lead to the next of kin becoming aware of the estate of a deceased person and promote general openness of information by the Council, this is not outweighed by the harm which could be caused by increasing the incidence of crime through disclosure of personal information such as names, dates of birth and last known address. Releasing this information could lead to identity theft or fraud.  Releasing the last known property address, which is quite likely to be empty, could ultimately lead to crime such as burglary or squatting.

Therefore, Cornwall Council is of the opinion that the balance of public interest favours non-disclosure of this information in all circumstances at this time.

Dealing with the estate

Our officers administering and dealing with Public Health Funerals must not ‘intermeddle’. This is a legal term which means managing the estate of the deceased or dealing with creditors without lawful authority. Our only involvement is to arrange the funeral of the deceased and recover expenses that have been incurred.

Statistics and data

The following information relates to Public Health Funerals that have been undertaken by Cornwall Council’s contracted Funeral Director. This information is not subject to the Section 31 (1) (a) qualified exemption of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and is disclosable and in the public domain in regards to Freedom of Information requests received.

Due to the unification of Cornwall’s local authorities, the following recorded and historic statistics are only able available from the financial year period 2013-2014 onwards. Please note that all data is on a financial year format only.

Referrals received

Please note, not all referrals received lead to funerals being undertaken by Cornwall Council

Informant type for all referrals received 

2013 - 2014

2014 - 2015

2015 - 2016

2016 - 2017

Coroner’s

27

22

33

46

Family member

9

14

15

22

Friend of deceased

3

7

2

4

Police

1

1

1

0

Care/Residential Home/Hospice

5

8

6

9

Funeral Director

7

4

2

10

Other e.g. Social Services

6

11

10

2

Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust

0

0

11

21

Total number of referrals received

58

67

80

114

 

Financial Year

Number of actual Public Health Funerals undertaken by Cornwall Council

2013-2014

34

2014-2015

39

2015-2016

54

2016-2017

81

 

Sex of Deceased relating to Public Health Funerals undertaken by Cornwall Council

Male

Female

2013-2014

25

9

2014-2015

29

10

2015-2016

37

17

2016-2017

64

17

 

Age of Deceased

Not known

18-24

25-39 years

40-60 years

60 years plus

2013-2014

0

0

1

11

22

2014-2015

1

0

1

12

25

2015-2016

1

0

0

15

38

2016-2017

2

0

1

18

60

 

From the 1 April 2017 all data is published quarterly (within 4 weeks of the end each quarter). 

* Please note that NOK means next of kin.

Need help?

Most issues can be resolved online, it's the quickest and most convenient way to get help.

Your feedback is important to us

Help us improve our service

Give feedback about your experience