Public health funerals

When somebody dies within Cheshire East and it appears there are no suitable arrangements being made, then Cheshire East Council has a responsibility to make sure that the person receives a proper burial or cremation (Section 46 of the 1984 Public Health Act).

Our role in public health funerals

Cheshire East will only make appropriate funeral arrangements when someone dies within the area with no next of kin or if no suitable arrangements are being made. If a person has passed away whilst in hospital, in the above circumstances, the hospital will be responsible for making the necessary funeral arrangements.

We normally act on instructions from the local Coroners Office. But in some cases, the managers of residential homes or sheltered accommodation inform us of a death that has occurred, where they are not aware of anybody who can make suitable arrangements for the funeral.

We will not become involved if any funeral arrangements have already been made, 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.

Cheshire East and public health funerals

When Cheshire East has been informed of a death that may qualify as a public health funeral we will normally liaise with the police and coroner regarding any personal effects they may hold.

If the address of where the deceased person lived is known, we will search their home to try and find a will, details of any relatives, documents that might indicate religious beliefs or funeral preferences and any potential funds to pay for the funeral.

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

The cost and payment of a public health funeral

The cost of the funeral is normally paid for using the money from the deceased person’s estate. If there is not enough money in their estate to meet the costs and if there is a will, the executor(s) may be responsible.

You can make the arrangements so we are not involved. If the deceased person has made a will, those named can carry out the funeral arrangements.

If the deceased person has not made a will, the person who is arranging the funeral (normally the next of kin) is responsible for the funeral costs.

Help may be available from other sources like charities and through the Department of Works and Pension Social Fund. If this happens, we will tell the executor that they should keep the funeral costs to a minimum, as funds may be limited.

The public health funeral arrangements

If there is nobody who can arrange the funeral, we will take on responsibility for all the funeral arrangements. This includes registration of the death, instructing a funeral director to collect the body, provide a coffin and transport the deceased to the crematorium.

Burial or cremation

Unless there is suitable evidence that the deceased would have been against cremation the funeral arrangements will be made for a cremation. If the person has left paperwork indicating their wish is to be buried, suitable arrangements for burial will be made. In either case an appropriate ceremony will be arranged depending on the deceased’s beliefs, if known at the time.

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.

Property and belongings of the deceased person

The property will be made secure and any keys or property belonging to the deceased that family and friends have must be handed to the Police or Council for safekeeping.

If the deceased left furniture or other personal belongings, we cannot make arrangements to dispose of these items. The estate or the owner of the property normally meets the cost of clearing the property, but  property should not be removed from the house unless legal authority exits to do so.

If, after the funeral costs have been met, there is still some money left over; Cheshire East Council will inform the Treasury Solicitor in accordance with rules set down by the Secretary of State.

Public health funerals - Freedom of Information requests

We are frequently asked for information about public health 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.

Any Freedom of Information request should be sent to FOI@cheshireeast.gov.uk

Cheshire East Council currently has a contract in place with a genealogy research company to assist with finding any relatives who may be able to take on the funeral arrangements.