The Council's role in the undertaking of Public Health Funerals
The Council has a statutory duty under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to undertake the disposal of deceased persons who die within Daventry District and where no other arrangements have been made.
Deaths that occur outside the district will need to be referred to the appropriate Local Authority in the area where the death occurred. The Council will not become involved if funeral arrangements have already been made or the funeral has taken place. Anyone giving instructions to a Funeral Director will be responsible for any costs incurred.
If there are any financial limitations, then it is sensible to inform the Funeral Director, at an early stage, when arranging a funeral. The Council's appointed Funeral Director will provide a dignified funeral.
However, prior to any involvement by the Council, the following needs to be considered:
A death in a hospital
If the deceased person died in a hospital managed by a NHS Hospital Trust and no relatives can be traced or relatives are unable to afford the cost of the funeral themselves or they do not qualify for a Social Fund Funeral Payment, then the Bereavement Officer of the hospital in which the person died will assume responsibility for the funeral.
Department for Work and Pensions
If there are relatives who are supported by benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), then financial assistance for the funeral can be made by applying to the DWP Social Fund or by visiting the Funeral Payments section on www.gov.uk If there are relatives not supported by benefits from the DWP, as next of kin they should undertake the funeral without the council's involvement.
Relatives not able to arrange a funeral
If there are relatives who are not prepared or able to accept responsibility for the funeral arrangements, then the Council has a duty to dispose of a deceased person and to recover their costs in making the arrangements. The nearest family member will be required to sign a Form of Authorisation to allow the Council to undertake the funeral arrangements and to recover the cost in undertaking the burial and Funeral Director's expenses. Any near relatives may, therefore, be required to fund any shortfall, in order that the Council's liabilities are met. Assets recovered from a deceased person's property may be sold to assist in the funding of the funeral arrangements. The Council will also seek to recover any expenditure incurred in administering the funeral arrangements.
Executors of the deceased
In order to establish who will be responsible for undertaking the funeral arrangements, a full search of the premises where the deceased person formerly resided, if appropriate, will need to be made to establish whether there are any next-of-kin. If the deceased resided in a hospital, care or nursing home, prior to death and without a private address, then there may be no property to search. However, any retained personal papers will require careful examination to establish whether next-of-kin are able to arrange the funeral. Whilst the majority of people may be organised in the retention of legal papers, correspondence, bills, diaries etc., others are not. In many cases important documentation is put aside for safekeeping in unconventional places and a full search of the property, therefore, needs to be made.
Property belonging to the deceased
Our officers have statutory authorisation to enter a property, under the provisions of section 61(1)(d) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, to ascertain the extent of the estate and to remove any items or assets which may assist in funding the funeral. If the Coroner is involved, then a Coroners Officer should have previously removed any valuables, money, benefit books and official documents whilst undertaking their initial investigations into the persons death.
Keys to the deceased property should not be left with neighbours or any other person but handed either to a Coroner's Officer or a Police Officer. If personal belongings of the deceased are misplaced, then the key holder will be liable. If it appears that our officers will become involved in undertaking the funeral arrangements, then any items removed from the property, together with keys will need to be retained by the Council. The premises must always be made secure. Generally, after the funeral costs and administration charges have been deducted, any funds, in excess of £500, remaining from a deceased person's estate will be forwarded to the Government Legal Department
Landlords must not enter the premises or remove any items from the property until our officers have completed their enquiries. In normal circumstances, this will be undertaken without delay and the keys subsequently returned to the property owner, who is responsible for clearing the premises, previously occupied by the deceased. Our officers will need to be advised of the condition of the property(ie if the occupant was a known drug user, general cleanliness etc.) in order that appropriate arrangements may be made for the safety of staff who will be required to enter the property.
Freedom of Information Requests
The Council, along with many other local authorities, has been experiencing a rise in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from companies offering to trace the next of kin of persons being buried under the Public Health Act 1948. In response to the volume of FOI requests on this subject the Council has created this page to make public all cases it refers to the Treasury Solicitor. In this way the Council has fulfilled its obligation under section 22 of the FOI Act (future publication) and will from this point forward refuse all such requests and refer applicants to this web page.
Register of Public Health Funerals
For our current listing of Public Health Funerals arranged by the Council you can view the Register of Public Health Funerals. We will update this register within 10 days of undertaking a funeral and when we refer a matter to The Treasury Solicitor.
Estates valued over £500
Estates valued over £500 are referred to Bona Vacantia who also maintain a register