Public Health Funerals

When someone dies it can be a very distressing time for those arranging a funeral, especially if there are concerns about how the funeral is to be paid for. If you have such concerns, it is important you discuss this with your chosen funeral director at an early stage in the arrangements. Once you enter into a contract with a funeral director you will be responsible for the costs.

You may be entitled to a financial assistance from the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) if you meet certain a criteria, e.g. you or your partner receive:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • the disability or sever disability element of Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit 

More information on how to make a claim, including a claim form, is available on the gov.uk website (Central Government) and on the Money Advice Service website

You may also find the below organisations helpful, as they can provide practical advice and support for those struggling with funeral cost and other issues associated with a bereavement:

  • Quaker Social action Down to Earth.  Down to Earth supports people to identify and arrange an affordable and meaningful funeral. They are able to do this face to face, over the phone or by email. Their helpline team can offer you free and confidential advice if you are struggling with the cost of organising a funeral.  Telephone 020 8983 5055
  • The Bereavement Advice Centre website  provide support and advise people on what they need to do after a death.  They have an extensive range of information at their fingertips and if they do not know the answer to your question, they will research it and call you back within an agreed time frame.  They also offers support and advice. Telephone 0800 634 9494

Veterans Bereavement Support Services

This organisation was set up in 2014 to ensure that all those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy have full access to a specialist network in their time of need. It is also available to families of veterans. This includes access to affordable funerals and a free advice and information helpline.

For more information, including contact details, Click here> link.

For enquiries about Public Health Funerals: 

Email: ddc.envprotection@dover.gov.uk

Telephone: 01304 872428 (ask to speak to an officer in the Environmental Protection Team)

Public Health Act 1984

We are responsible for arranging a funeral when someone dies within the district boundary if:

  • no funeral arrangements have been made
  • no relatives of the deceased can be found, or
  • the relatives of the deceased are unable or not prepared to arrange a funeral

This responsibility falls to us under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. The Act also empowers us to recover costs incurred in making the funeral arrangements from the estate of the deceased (property and possessions).

If the deceased lived within the Dover area but passed away outside of the Dover District boundary, the funeral arrangements will be the responsibility of the local authority where they died. 

If funeral arrangements have been made, or the funeral has  taken place we will not  get involved. We cannot provide funding for funeral arrangements to families, whether the funeral has taken place or not.

If the deceased had a family, the nearest surviving relative will be required to sign a form stating they are willing for us to make the funeral arrangements, and understand that costs will be recovered from the deceased’s estate. If the family have already removed any possessions from where the deceased lived, these may need to be returned to us to help offset their costs.

Once we have accepted a case, we will organise the funeral. This includes registering the death, liaising with funeral directors and paying for the funeral.

A cremation service will normally be held, unless it is established that the deceased would have chosen burial for religious, cultural or personal reasons. 

Our contracted funeral directors will provide everything necessary for a dignified service which will appear no different to any other simple ceremony. 

The funeral director may also arrange for a minister of religion or a representative of the faith of the deceased to lead the service. If a non-religious service is appropriate, a civil funeral celebrant will be used. Family and friends will be kept informed and may attend the funeral service.

Following the cremation, the cremated remains will normally be scattered at the crematorium Gardens of Remembrance. In certain circumstances the ashes may be given into the care of a close family member or friend.

Property Search

Prior to making the funeral arrangements, our officers will search the last known address of the deceased. The search will focus on finding a will, evidence of family or friends, and any items that may be used to offset the funeral costs. This may entail removing personal possessions from the property, including address books, correspondence, legal documents, financial paperwork and possessions such as jewellery which may be sold to raise money.

We are not responsible for clearing or cleaning the property.

Following  completion of the search the property will be secured and the keys returned to the landlord. If the property was owned by the deceased, the case will be referred to the Government Legal Department and their instructions regarding the property will be followed

Executors of a Will

We will not  make funeral arrangements where the deceased left a will and the executor is traced. In such cases we expect the executor to make suitable arrangements. If the executor wishes to revoke their duties, they must make a formal renunciation  and declare they wish to have no involvement in the funeral arrangements.

Estate Administration

We are entitled to recover costs but are not empowered to administer the estate. Where there is a surplus of over £500 after taking into account the funeral costs and our expenses, the case shall be referred to the Government Legal Department under bona vacantia. The case can not be referred in this way where there are known family. Under such circumstances we will hold monies until a legally entitled person demonstrates their suitability to administer the estate through the holding of letters of administration from the courts. It is not our practice to return money or property from the estate to any family member without proper lawful authority. 

Death in a Hospital

If the deceased died as an in-patient in a hospital managed by an NHS Trust and there are no relatives, the NHS Trust may assume responsibility for the funeral arrangements and recover their expenses from the deceased's estate.

Death in a Nursing Home

Funeral arrangements are normally made by relatives or social services, as they will often be managing the finances of the deceased. 

Freedom of Information Requests

Public Health Funerals and Costs

The Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 places a statutory duty on Dover District Council (DDC) for registering the death and arranging the funeral of any person who has died within the Dover District in cases where there are no known relatives or friends able to make the necessary arrangements.

As part of our investigations we use genealogy companies to search for direct relatives. This has vastly reduced the cases that are being referred to the treasury solicitors. This has also meant that where there is an available estate the local authority is able to inform that relative of the existence of that estate. Relatives can then consider whether they wish to administer the estate.

The Council, along with many other local authorities, has been experiencing a huge rise in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from companies offering to trace the next of kin of persons being buried under the Public Health Act 1948.  In response to the volume of FOI requests on this subject the Council has created this page to make public all of its cases. In this way the Council has fulfilled its obligation under section 22 of the FOI Act (future publication) and will from this point forward refuse all such requests and refer applicants to this web page.

List of Public Health Funerals

Number of Public Health Funerals and Cost by year

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 addresses have been redacted or withheld under the following two exemptions:

Section 21 – Information accessible to applicant by other means.

Whilst DDC may hold some of the information requested, DDC does not accept that it holds the information in its own right, but on behalf of the Treasury Solicitor’s’ department where relevant.   Some details of the estate of those persons who have died have been passed onto the Treasury Solicitors’ Department can be accessed via the Treasury Solicitors’ website or at the Bona Vacantia website.

Section 31(1)(a) – law enforcement (prevention and detection of crime).

DDC will not disclose address details into the public domain 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. The Council does 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 as undertaken by Treasury Solicitors.