31 January 2018

This is 21st Century Britain: £4 million spent on public health funerals by local councils in 2015/16

3 min read

 
Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager

Meera Khanna

Consumer PR Manager - Protection

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New data obtained by Royal London reveals the number of public health funerals and the average cost of a public health funeral for local councils has risen in the last five years. The data is based on Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to 390 local authorities in the UK.

  • Local authorities in the UK spent £4 million on public health funerals in 2015/16
  • The number of public health funerals has increased by 12% over the last five years 
  • Cost of public health funerals across the UK has increased by 36% over the last five years

A public health funeral, also known as a pauper’s funeral, is held by a local authority if the deceased has no family or the family are unable to cover the cost of the funeral.

Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index has found growing levels of funeral poverty as families struggle to meet rising costs. With the average cost for a basic funeral running at £3,784, many families go into debt, with one in six (16%) taking on an average debt of £1,680. Others are simply unable to contribute at all, leaving the local authority to take on the cost of the funeral.

FoI data from 260 local authorities shows there were 3,784 public health funerals across the UK in the financial year 2015/16. The total cost of these funerals amounted to £4 million.

211 councils provided data on public health funerals both for the financial years 2011/12 and 2015/16. This reveals the number of public health funerals has increased by 12% over the last five years. Councils in the East of England saw the biggest percentage increase in public health funerals in the last five years, at 36%.

The total cost of public health funerals to councils across the UK increased by 36% in the last five years. The data also shows the cost of public health funerals varied regionally across the UK. West Midlands had the highest cost, with more than £900,000 being spent on funerals in 2015/16. London local authorities saw a 51% increase in the average cost of a funeral, with a public health funeral costing local authorities an average of £1,004 in 2015/16 compared to £666 in 2011/12.

Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, comments on the data:

"It is always upsetting when the deceased has no family to arrange a funeral, or when their family simply cannot afford one. In these cases, local councils take on the responsibility of paying for a funeral and it’s evident that councils are facing increasing pressure to accommodate the rising number of public health funerals in the UK. With one in six people struggling to pay for funeral costs, urgent action is needed by the Government to tackle rising funeral poverty."

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For further information please contact:

Meera Khanna, Consumer PR Manager

Notes to Editors

  1. A public health funeral is a no frills service provided by the local authority, which includes a coffin and the services of a funeral director. The funeral service does not include flowers, viewings, obituaries or transport for family members. The funeral director, date and time of a public health funeral are decided by the local authority. Family members are able to attend the funeral if they wish to attend.
  2. Comparisons made between the financial years of 2011/12 and 2015/16, including percentage changes, were based on the 211 councils that provided both sets of data for both financial years. 
  3. The total cost of public health funerals across the UK in 2015/16 was £4,098,723. 
  4. The cost of public health funerals to local councils includes any costs that were recovered by the council from the estate.

About Royal London:

Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK, with funds under management of £117 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 3,745 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2018.