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Public health funerals

If there are no relatives willing or able to make funeral arrangements following a death, then we may have a duty to help out under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

We aim to comply with the requirements of the Act in a sympathetic manner, making all the appropriate funeral arrangements. Where possible we will recover expenses from the deceased's estate to limit the costs to our residents. 

When does this happen?

We normally act on written instructions received from the local Coroner's Officer. In some instances managers of residential homes and sheltered accommodation advise on circumstances where a death has occurred within their home or accommodation and, as far as they know, there are no relatives willing or able to make the funeral arrangements. If a person dies in hospital it is the Health Authority's responsibility.

What happens next?

When we have been notified we collect the deceased's personal effects from the Police.

The residence of the deceased (if known) will be searched to try and find a will or any other documents that will indicate the existence of any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.

The Council will register the death, if this has not already been carried out.

If we find details of family and friends, they will be informed of the death and invited to make the funeral arrangements.

Who pays for the funeral?

The cost of the funeral is usually met out of the estate of the deceased. If there are insufficient funds, the executor of the estate is personally liable.

Where the deceased has not left a will, the person arranging the funeral (normally the next of kin) is liable to meet the funeral costs.

If the next of kin is not prepared to arrange and pay for the funeral (for example where there are insufficient funds in the estate) they will be asked to make a written statement to us to confirm this.

Burial or cremation?

Unless it appears that the deceased would have been against cremation, the funeral arrangements will be made with the funeral director nominated by the Council for a cremation service at Woking Crematorium.

If the person had left paperwork or advised family or friends that they wanted to be buried, suitable arrangement for burial will be made.

In either case an appropriate religious or non-religious ceremony would be arranged in accordance (as far as possible) with the deceased's beliefs. At the crematorium a public health funeral is just like any other funeral with a chapel service.

When a burial is arranged a graveside service is normally held, and it is only normally the lack of a memorial that distinguishes the grave.

Cremated remains

The cremated remains of the deceased will be scattered in the gardens of remembrance unless other specific instructions are found amongst the deceased possessions or in a will. However, any costs associated with specific instructions must first be met either through the deceased's estate or by family members. If a family member wishes to keep the remains then they must be collected from the crematorium as it is not possible for remains to be sent by courier.

Funeral payments

In certain circumstances relatives responsible for arranging the funeral may be eligible for assistance from the Department of Work and Pensions. Contact your local Job Centre Plus for more information.

Funerals undertaken by Runnymede Borough Council

You can view a pdf icon list of public health funerals [114kb] undertaken by us from 1 February 2011. This will be updated each time a case has been dealt with.

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