Advice Funeral Costs What is a Pauper’s Funeral?

What is a Pauper’s Funeral?

Funeral prices keep on rising (7.1% year on year). In the UK the average cost of a funeral is around £4,000. With a growing cost of living crisis and the financial strain and loss of the COVID-19 pandemic, this increasingly means that people are simply unable to afford the funeral costs after someone dies. This can add further pain to an already tough time.
This has resulted in a rise in demand for state-funded funerals.

Who qualifies for a public health funeral?

You qualify for this kind of council-funded, basic funeral service when;

  • There is no known family and their funeral plans are not already in place
  • The person that’s died had no money or funeral plan to cover costs
  • The remaining family are unable or unwilling to cover the costs
  • The person that has died was being looked after by the local authority, or are homeless

In 2021 6,000 people had a paupers funeral, which was a 26% increase from 2020. This amounts to around 1 in 100 deaths.

Who pays for my funeral if I have no money?

If you qualify for a public health funeral.
I.e you don’t have any money or known family, or if your family are unable to cover the costs of a funeral your local council should step in to pay for a basic funeral for you.

What are the origins of pauper's funerals?

The right to a dignified burial was made common law in 1840. The law sat in the wider context of the Poor Laws, which legislated to address some of the conditions of the poor in Britain, including those living (and dying) in the workhouses in the late 1800s.

What happens at a pauper’s funeral?

The council will arrange for a coffin, a funeral director, and a simple service. The funeral will generally be a cremation unless the deceased has explicitly expressed their desire for a burial or if this isn’t possible due to religious reasons.

Can the family attend a public health funeral?

Each council has its own set of rules around how a pauper’s funeral works.

Shockingly this can even mean that some councils have rules that stop the remaining family from attending the funeral, although this isn’t that common. If the remaining family are welcome to come to the funeral itself, they cannot submit any kind of request for when it takes place. The local authority will also decide the time and date, often at short notice, typically taking place early in the mornings and on weekdays. This lack of say or control can make a tough time even harder for the remaining family.

What is a basic funeral service?

Because it is a basic service, if the family wanted any extras - such as flowers, transport, or obituary announcements - they would need to provide those separately. If the deceased is to be buried, there will be an accompanying graveside service - the burial itself may be in a public grave, shared with other people. Some local authorities will make the effort to find evidence of graves containing other family members but that is never guaranteed.

Can you have a plaque or memorial at a public health funeral?

With public graves, again it is up to the local council as to whether you can leave plaques or memorials on the plots. Some authorities will permit it but by and large, the remaining family is not allowed to place anything personalised on the site - to guarantee the right to personalise the grave, the family would have to buy the exclusive rights for that plot.

What happens to the ashes at a paupers' funeral?

In cases of cremation, some councils will allow remaining friends or family to collect the ashes from either the funeral director or the crematorium itself. If they do not permit it, they would contact the family to let them know when the ashes will be scattered - either in designated areas of a cemetery or in a garden of remembrance.

How can you reduce the cost of a funeral ahead of time?

Organising a funeral at an emotional time is tough enough.
There are two main ways that you reduce the cost of your funeral for your loved ones:

  1. Laying out your wishes really clearly - this will avoid them paying for anything that isn’t needed or that you wouldn’t have wanted. It also makes a tough time that much easier.
  2. Pre-paying for your funeral ahead of time
    Get expert tailored suggestions about how you could make life easier for the people you love when you die by taking this free 1 minute quiz today.

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