What are Paupers’ Funerals?

Posted: 12/02/2018

Public health funerals, or funerals that are paid for by the council, have been historically dubbed ‘Paupers’ Funerals’ in the UK ever since the Victorian era.

Paupers’ funerals apply to those who die without any assets and without any friends or family to bury them.

With our ageing population ever-increasing, it is among the elderly population that we witness the rise in paupers’ funerals today.

The National Funeral Cost Index showed that there were 3,784 public health funerals across the UK in the financial year 2015/16. The greatest increase in paupers’ funerals was seen in the east of England.

Who Gets a Pauper’s Funeral?

Paupers’ funerals (officially dubbed ‘public health funerals’) are only reserved for those that neither have the resources to pay for their funeral or the family or friends to cover the costs.

A public health funeral will also be available to those whose family have not been successfully traced, or whose friends and family refuse paying for the costs of putting the deceased to rest.

If the person was being provided with accommodation under Part 1 of the Care Act 2014 prior to their death, the local authority may be responsible for their burial or cremation.

What is Included in a Pauper’s Funeral?

Funeral poverty is a reality in the UK today. Because they have to be cost-effective for the council that is paying for them, public health funerals do not include items such as flowers, funeral transport, or choice of time and location.

Oftentimes, those that are put to rest in a public health funeral will have a shared grave or a grave that is not marked by a headstone. If the person is cremated, their ashes will usually be scattered in the crematorium’s garden or woodland, or they may be buried in an unmarked plot.




Some councils will allow any existing family or friends to collect the ashes, but this is not always the case. Any personalisation on burial plots will usually have to be paid for by family or friends; public funerals will only have the resources to administer the bare minimum under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

If there is any indication or reason to believe that cremation was not within the wishes of the deceased (perhaps for religious reasoning), then the local authority is required to perform a burial.

Political Reception to Paupers’ Funerals

Highlighting the stark reality of paupers’ funerals and their growth, Liberal Democrat MP, Tim Farron commented:

“Looking at these figures I feel an immense sadness. One of the saddest aspects of public health funerals is that the individual who has died is often not only without money, but without mourners too. Even for many people with families, the unexpected cost of a funeral can be too much for those struggling to make ends meet.

These figures are also a reminder of the importance of community and the need to be there for our neighbours.” 

Back in 2016, the Commons Work and Pensions Committee expressed concern in the rise of paupers’ funerals in relation to the ongoing rise in funeral costs. Since then, the worry about the cost and increasing demand for these services has only grown.

How to Avoid Getting a Public Health Funeral

Having to have a public health funeral is not the ideal scenario to be in; paupers’ funerals can be deeply impersonal and unceremonial. Many of these services are attended by no mourners, other than a representative of the local authority or council.

To avoid relying on a public health funeral as a result of unaffordable funeral costs, the best option for you is to look into prepaid funeral plans.

Investing in a prepaid funeral plan not only allows you to access funeral arrangements at a fixed cost (not subject to future price increases) but also enables you to pay for your own or your loved one’s funeral in advance so that you do not have to worry about passing without any funds or any plans being put in place.

Nobody should have to rely on a pauper’s funeral. With a prepaid funeral plan, you don’t have to. Here at Perfect Funeral Plans, we compare the best funeral providers so that you can get the best services, at the best rates.