This report provides a unique insight into what it is like for a member of the public to try and access a public health funeral from their local authority.
It is a human right to be able to grieve in peace. Yet, at Down to Earth, every year we support hundreds of people unable to do this because they are struggling under the weight of funeral costs. Sometimes, the financial options are so limited, they simply cannot afford to take on the funeral arrangements.
No one should be in this position, but hundreds of people are, every year.
Seeking help from the local authority in this situation can take courage, and be bound up in many difficult emotions. The process needs to be compassionate, simple and equitable. It obviously needs to follow the law.
This report shows a very different reality in many local authority areas.
- Mystery shopping investigation of 27 local authorities indicates that 10 are not carrying out their legal duty with regard to public health funerals, turning people away when they do not have the funds to pay for a funeral and need their council to take responsibility
- A survey of 40 local authority websites found that at least 65% are not following Government guidelines on public health funerals. 14 had no information available online whatsoever and of the 26 that did, 12 had no contact details for people who need to notify their local authority of a death requiring a public health funeral
- Over half of the websites with information contained incorrect or misleading information. The most common error related to local authorities’ legal duty, with a third misrepresenting the circumstances in which someone can access a public health funeral
- Two local authorities indicate from their website that they could cremate someone against their wishes if there were insufficient funds or the cost was deemed unreasonable, which goes against their legal duty in the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984
- Only six local authorities make clear in their online information that family and/or friends would be able to attend the funeral, but one of those also states that “if there is a refusal to pay” they will be under “no obligation” to inform family and friends of the time and place. Only two clearly state that the cremated remains can be collected if wished, whatever the situation.