Skip to main content
Postcode Search
Alert Sign Icon
Reception is closed, but we are open for business.

In line with government advice our reception at Bridgwater House remains closed. You can contact us by calling 0300 303 7800 or by emailing

Public Health Funerals

The Council's role

The Council has a public health duty to bury or cremate any person who has died within the District, where no other suitable arrangements have been or are being made for the disposal of the body. We make every effort to trace next of kin, family and friends.  However, the Council will normally arrange a cremation when there are no relatives or friends willing to take responsibility (financially or otherwise) for the funeral arrangements. A referral to the Council is normally received from the coroner's office in most cases.

Circumstances in which we will not arrange a funeral:

  • We will not part fund a funeral.
  • If funeral arrangements have already been made, such as instructions to a Funeral Director, we will not be responsible for any costs incurred. 
  • If there are next of kin able to make the arrangements 

If the relatives of the deceased cannot afford to pay for the funeral, they are referred to the local Jobcentre Plus or social security office, as they may qualify for financial assistance under the Social Fund regulations.

Funding a funeral

If you are unable to pay for a funeral, you may be eligible for financial assistance towards the costs.

There are two main types of financial assistance available for people who are unable to pay for a funeral in way of a funeral payment. Please see Funeral Payments on the GOV.UK website for further information.

You can contact the Department for Work and Pensions' Bereavement Service helpline on 0345 606 0265 to check your eligibility for assistance, or visit the Death and Benefits page of the website. 

If you need assistance to access funding, the Citizen's Advice Office may be able to help.

What happens

Where the coroner has notified us of a death where, as far as they are aware there is no one willing to make funeral arrangements we will search the deceased person's home to try and find a will or any documents that will indicate the existence of any relatives, friends, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.  Where we find details of family and friends they will be informed of the death and invited to make the funeral arrangements. Close relatives or partners will be asked to confirm in writing that they are not prepared to make arrangements for the funeral.

We will instruct a local funeral director to make the necessary arrangements. This will be a basic funeral to minimise the cost to the local tax payer. We will act upon the wishes of the deceased if these are known, including any religious beliefs. Arrangements will be made for a religious representative of the  faith of the deceased to be present to conduct a simple service in accordance with that faith. If a non-religious service is appropriate, then this will be respected.

Public Funerals Register

We have recently been experiencing a high volume of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from companies and individuals offering to trace the next of kin of persons who's funeral has been dealt with under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984. In response to the volume of FOI requests on this subject we have created a register of public health funerals. The register will be updated quarterly.

Please note that under 'last known addresses', some addresses have been redacted or withheld in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 under Section 31(1)(a) - law enforcement (prevention and detection of crime).

We will not disclose address details where they relate to deceased's empty properties as the property is likely to be unoccupied and might still contain the deceased's personal papers and effects. We do not believe it to be in the public interest to disclose information relating to empty properties prior to a full and thorough securing of the assets of the estate.

Further Information

Burial in private land

Burials usually occur in cemeteries or church yards; however some individuals choose to be buried in private land, such as farmland, or private gardens. In England there is no law prohibiting burial on private land.