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What is a pauper's funeral?

'Pauper's funeral' or 'pauper's cremation' is a term that is sometimes used to describe a Public Health Funeral or a Council Funeral. This is a basic funeral organised by the local authority where relatives are unwilling or unable to pay for the funeral of someone who has passed away, or where no relatives can be traced.


What happens at a pauper's funeral?

The council will appoint a Funeral Director to carry out a simple, basic funeral. In most cases, it will take place at a crematorium unless there is evidence of the deceased wishes for a burial.

The Funeral Director will be responsible for selecting a time and date for the funeral. The family will have very little control over funeral arrangements.

A Public Health Funeral will often only cover the necessary elements of a cremation which will include a basic coffin and transportation to the crematorium (or cemetery) for the deceased. It is unlikely flowers, viewing of the deceased, obituaries or transport for the family will be provided. 


Can you attend a pauper's funeral?

This depends on the policy of the local council organising the funeral. Often, you are able to attend a pauper's funeral. However, as it will be a basic cremation, there will only be a short service. If not immediately available, councils will usually do their best to locate family or friends for the service and failing this, members of the council may attend as a mark of respect. 

Every council will have its own policy regarding 'Public Health' or pauper's funerals, so specific details such as the services provided will differ between authorities.


Who can have a Public Health Funeral?

Sometimes, people pass on with no relatives or friends left behind. In other cases, the family may unfortunately be unable or unwilling to cover the cost of a funeral. In these circumstances, a Public Health Funeral will provide the deceased with a respectable, simple funeral.

Only the council can take responsibility for arranging a pauper's funeral, so if a member of the public begins to make arrangements with a Funeral Director, the financial responsibility is left with that individual.

Because this option is supposed to be a last resort when there is no other alternative, there can be no contributions or part funding from the bereaved.


Do the council have to help with funeral costs?

Under Section 46 of the Public Health Act 1984, it is the council’s responsibility to arrange a cremation or burial for someone who has died within their boundary, if relatives cannot be traced or are unable or unwilling to pay funeral expenses.

The law states that if someone left a will, it is the duty of the person appointed executor to arrange a funeral and cover the funeral costs if the deceased did not leave enough to cover the expense of their funeral.

However, if the authorities are satisfied that the family does not have the funds available to cover the cost of a funeral themselves and the family can provide a written statement rejecting responsibility, the council will cover the funeral costs and take care of the arrangements.

The local council will have three years to recover some or all of the cost of the funeral from the deceased’s estate. The estate includes any money (including savings) or properties they may have owned but does not include a house left to their surviving spouse.


How else can I get help with funeral costs?

There are various government schemes in place that can help with funeral costs. People who are entitled to certain benefits may be granted a Funeral Expenses Payment (also referred to as a Funeral Payment) from the government. Find out more about how to get help with funeral costs.


Find out how a basic funeral could help reduce funeral costs

Most people prefer to organise at least some aspect of a funeral for their loved one. While this isn't an option with a pauper's funeral, we can help. Simplicity Cremations offer direct cremation, Intimate Funerals and Family Led Funerals at a significantly lower cost than that of a traditional funeral (which costs on average £4,184 in the UK*). This basic funeral cuts out all of the unnecessary extras, meaning a dignified funeral without the cost. In choosing Simplicity, you'll be able to opt for the funeral most suited to you and your loved one.

Where cost is a particular issue for the family, our direct cremation service would be most suited. Our professional team can collect your loved one, before carrying out a simple funeral without any mourners present. A direct cremation means that costs such as a limousine, hearse, flowers and a headstone are removed.

By choosing Simplicity Cremations, you can rest assured that your loved one is being tended to with the utmost care by our professional, respectful team.

If you were not close with the departed, then a direct cremation can allow your loved one a dignified funeral, with much lower expenses than the ones you may incur with a full service arranged by a Funeral Director. Alternatively, you may wish to arrange a memorial at a later date, away from the crematorium at a time and location to suit you.

Following the direct cremation, the ashes will be respectfully scattered in our gardens of remembrance or returned to you on request.


How planning a funeral in advance can help

A prepaid funeral plan can be set up in order to pay for a funeral in advance. The price of the funeral will be frozen at today’s price, whilst you pay for your funeral in a series of instalments. You may also pay in a lump sum if you prefer. This can save loved ones from the financial strain of organising a funeral in the future.


To find out more about our funeral services, call us today on 0800 484 0260.


*The average cost of a basic funeral in the UK is currently £4,184, SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report,

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