There are occasions when people die and there are no relatives or friends able to assume responsibility for arranging their funeral and the deceased has no known funeral plan. In such cases City of Wolverhampton Council, like all other Local Authorities, has the duty to arrange the funeral of any person who has died within its boundary; this may also include, under certain circumstances, in hospital. These are known as Public Health (Control of Disease) Act funerals 1984, (previously known as ‘pauper’s’ funerals).
- City of Wolverhampton Council (like all other Councils) has a duty under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to "cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or is found to be dead" within Wolverhampton, and where it appears "that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being made". Typically, people who die intestate and with no next of kin.
- City of Wolverhampton Council only take responsibility for arranging funerals in exceptional circumstances, when all options have been explored, and there appears to be no available plan in place.
- City of Wolverhampton Council will make all reasonable attempts to locate living relatives or friends of the deceased. When relatives or friends are located, this may mean that the responsibility is passed on to them. If there is no one willing or able to undertake the responsibility of managing the aspects needed to arrange a funeral, then the City of Wolverhampton Council will make the necessary arrangements. City of Wolverhampton Council are entitled to recover the funeral costs from the estate of the deceased.
- Where City of Wolverhampton Council are holding assets that exceed the cost of the funeral, a referral will be made to the Estates Group within the Bona Vacantia (small receipts) Division of the Government Legal Department, in accordance with the rules set down by the Secretary of State. For more information, and to view the Government Legal Department's Estates register, please visit the Bona Vacantia website.
- City of Wolverhampton Council usually act on instructions received from our local coroner's office.
- In some instances, the manager of a care home, hospice or sheltered housing might advise us of circumstances where a death has occurred within their accommodation and, as far as they know, there are no living relatives and no plan in place for funeral arrangements.
- When the Coroner notifies us of a death, Council Officer’s collect the deceased's personal effects from the police if necessary.
- If the address is known, or where the death has been notified by the manager of a residential home or sheltered accommodation, the residence of the deceased will be searched by Council Officer’s in order to locate a Will or any other documents that will assist with finding any relatives. It is important to find any documents that indicate what the religious beliefs or funeral preferences of the deceased were, and also to locate funds to pay for the funeral.
- City of Wolverhampton Council will not become involved if funeral arrangements have already been made by the deceased, or if the funeral has already taken place. We will not part-fund a funeral or contribute to the cost of a funeral which has already been organised by someone else.
- City of Wolverhampton Council do not usually undertake funeral arrangements if the person died in hospital. In such circumstances the hospital authority/Trust would take responsibility. The hospital authorities would require reimbursement should any money later become available to enable this.
- The DWP Funeral Expenses Payment / Social Fund may be available if the person arranging the funeral is in receipt of certain benefits and needs help to pay for a funeral they are arranging. We would advise that you inform the Funeral Director about the financial means for paying straight away, in order that any arrangements are made within the financial means available. If a funeral expenses payment is being claimed the necessary advice can be sought and forms completed in order to fund the arrangements. (See financial help to pay section below)
- City of Wolverhampton Council will in most cases make arrangements for the cremation of the deceased person. with our contracted Funeral Director for a cremation at Wolverhampton Crematorium.
- The cremated remains of the deceased are usually placed beneath the soil in the garden of remembrance unless specific instructions are found within the deceased's possessions. Any costs associated with such specific instructions must first be met through the deceased's estate, or by family members. Where a family member wishes to retain the cremated remains, they must be collected from the crematorium by that person with appropriate permissions.
- A cremation will be carried out unless the deceased person left any specific written instruction that they wanted a burial, suitable arrangements for a burial would then be made.
- An appropriate ceremony will be arranged (as far as is reasonably possible) in accordance with the deceased's known beliefs and wishes.
- We encourage family and friends of the deceased to attend the funeral service and we will make every effort to arrange the service on a date and time that is suitable for them.
If you are the person responsible for arranging the funeral of a family member or friend and are on a low income, please see www.gov.uk/funeral-payments for eligibility criteria as an alternative to a public health funeral or contact DWP for further information.
- City of Wolverhampton Council are frequently asked for information about Public Health Act funerals, people who have died with no known next of kin, bona vacantia estates and estates which have been referred to the Government Legal Department.
- In response to such requests, we provide information about Public Health Act funerals that have taken place recently, these can be found in the Downloads section.
- This information is updated with information relating to public health funerals on a quarterly basis.
- Because there are relatively few Public Health Act funerals in Wolverhampton, we consider that publication of this information at quarterly intervals is reasonable and proportionate.
- The provision of updated information before the next planned quarterly update will be exempted under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as it is information that we hold with the intention of publishing at a future date.
City of Wolverhampton Council apply the following exemptions to the release of further information about Public Health Act 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:
Freedom of Information Act 2000, Section 21 – information reasonably accessible to the applicant by another means
- Our reason for applying this exemption is that details of all deaths within Wolverhampton are registered. Deaths can be registered at any register office and contact details of all those within Wolverhampton can be found on our Wolverhampton Bereavement Services.
- Information that we hold on estates passed, or estates to be passed, to the Treasury Solicitor, is held on behalf of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. Some details of the estate of those persons who have died and which have been passed to the Treasury Solicitor can be accessed via the Treasury Solicitor’s website, or via the Bona Vacantia website.
Freedom of Information Act 2000, Section 31 – law enforcement
- Revealing details of the assets of an estate before the Treasury Solicitor has undertaken their own enquiries could provide an opportunity for criminal acts to be committed (for example, theft or fraud).
- There would be concerns about making the last known address of the deceased public, as the property is likely to be unoccupied and might still contain the deceased’s personal papers and effects.
- There may be a continued risk, after the estate has been secured of identity theft.
- Considering all the above issues, we conclude that there is no overriding public interest in releasing the information requested. Any public interest would be best served by upholding the exemption under Section 31 of the Act as disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the commission of offences.
Whilst the application of exemptions is considered on a case-by-case basis, decisions will be guided by previous determinations, including notices issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), where the same or substantially similar issues have been considered and it is appropriate to rely on the same reasoning.
To contact us:
Telephone: 01902 551155