Royal London has done some interesting research and revealed the ten councils that spent the most, and least, on public health funerals in the UK in the financial year 2018/19. The mutual insurer sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to 400 councils and discovered that local councils in the UK spent a total of £6.3m on public health funerals last year.
Birmingham City Council spent the most on public health funerals, at nearly £1m (£967,658) last year. The council also arranged 387 public health funerals, which was the highest number according to the research. Cornwall Council had the second highest spend with around three quarters of a million (£744,963) being spent.
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, in Northern Ireland spent the least on public health funerals in 2018/19. Its total spend was £250.
Public health funeral postcode lottery
The research also reveals the huge difference in the amounts spent on individual public health funerals.
Cornwall Council, for example, spent £7,450 on average compared to the UK average of £1,507 in 2018/19. The reason for the higher than average spend is because the local authority goes above and beyond what would be expected from a simple public health funeral. This includes collection of the deceased, a basic coffin and a hearse as part of the funeral.
Two in five (38%) public health funerals were carried out by councils because the deceased had no family, making it the most common reason. The second most common reason was that the deceased’s family were unable to pay for the funeral (29%).
Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London said:
“Councils are continuing to take on the increasing cost of public health funerals for individuals who, sadly, have no family. The research also shows that families who are unable to afford the cost of a funeral for their loved one are turning to their local council for help.
“Whilst each council has a duty to arrange a funeral in these circumstances, it’s interesting to see the difference in spend on public health funerals by local authorities across the UK. Some councils are going above and beyond arranging a simple funeral while others do not allow families to attend the funeral. This is why we are calling for legislation on minimum standards for public health funerals to ensure everyone can, at the very least, attend the funeral and collect their loved one’s ashes.”
Royal London has also published a paper revealing that 21 local councils in the UK do not return ashes to families following a public health funeral. Some 18 councils that do return ashes charge for their return to families, making sure they extract cash from people at a low point in their lives, when they obviously in financial distress as they can’t afford a funeral send-off for their loved one.
Incredibly, the Royal London research found out that 14 councils do not even allow family members to attend a public health funeral, under any circumstances – is there any need for such cold-hearted, miserly behaviour when councils are full of virtue-signalling and be-a-good-citizen ideas at every Twitter and Facebook PR meeting?
Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, said:
“It’s incredibly sad when bereaved families have no choice but to seek a public health funeral. But when some families are refused the ashes of their loved ones or are not even allowed to attend the funeral, it is clear that they are being treated unfairly. It’s about time the system was overhauled, and we’re calling for legislation on minimum standards for public health funerals to ensure everyone can, at the very least, attend a funeral and collect their loved one’s ashes.”
Royal London is calling for legislation on minimum standards for public health funerals. Local councils in the UK should return ashes to traceable families free of charge if requested and should allow family members to attend a public health funeral.