Public health funerals

Frequently requested information

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. In response to these requests, we are releasing the following information about public health funerals:

This information will be updated with information relating to public health funerals on a quarterly basis.

Exemption of Updated Information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

There are relatively few public health funerals in the London Borough Richmond Upon Thames and, therefore, we consider that publication of this information at quarterly intervals is reasonable. The provision of updated information before the next planned update will be exempted under Section 22 of the Act as it is information that we hold with the intention of publishing at some future date, as specified above.

Exemption of Additional Information under The Freedom of Information Act 2000

We apply the following exemptions to the release of any further 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:

Section 21- Information Reasonably Accessible to the Applicant by Another Means.

The Council’s reason for applying this exemption is that details of all deaths within the Borough are registered. Deaths can be registered at any Registry Office and contact details of all those within the London Borough Richmond, can be found on our registration pages.

Information that the council holds on estates passed, or estates to be passed, to the Treasury Solicitor, is considered to be 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 at www.tsol.gov.uk or via the Bona Vacantia website at www.bonavacantia.gov.uk.

Section 31 – Law Enforcement

Revealing details of the assets of an estate before the Treasury Solicitor has undertaken their own enquiries would provide an opportunity for criminal acts to be committed (for example, theft or fraud). Similarly, 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 is also a continuing risk after the estate has been secured of, for example, identity theft. Taking into account the above issues, the council considers that there is no over-riding 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.

Applicants should be aware that the exemption of additional information under Section 21 and Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been upheld by an Internal Review.

Our role in welfare funerals

We have a statutory duty under the provisions of Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to undertake the disposal of deceased persons, either by cremation or burial, who die in the London Borough of Richmond where no other arrangements have been made.

The council cannot 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 living relatives are unable to pay for the funeral, a funeral payment is available from Jobcentre Plus for those on income related benefits. 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. Assets recovered from a deceased person's property may be sold to assist in the funding of the funeral arrangements. Only in exceptional circumstances will we carry out a welfare funeral for someone with living relatives.

If the deceased made a will, we cannot become involved in the undertaking of the funeral arrangements unless the executor revokes the will.

Welfare funeral staff 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. 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 Treasury Solicitor.

Welfare funeral

A cremation will be arranged by the council with the cremated remains being subsequently strewn in the Garden of Remembrance at South West Middlesex Crematorium  unless it is established that the religion of the deceased forbids cremation or the deceased expressed a wish, either verbally or written, to be buried. In exceptional circumstances, cremated remains may be given into the care of a close family member or will be re-united with the remains of a previously deceased close family member.

Arrangements will be made for a minister of religion or a religious representative of the faith of the deceased to conduct the service in accordance with that faith. If a non-religious service is appropriate, then this will be respected.

Our contracted funeral director will provide a dignified funeral with a coffin taken to the crematorium or cemetery in a hearse attended by bearers. We will provide a bouquet of flowers for placing on the coffin.

Updated: 28 April 2015