Public Health Act funerals

What is the council's role?

We will make appropriate funeral arrangements where it appears that no other person is willing or able to make the necessary arrangements. Where possible we will recover funeral expenses from monies available from the deceased’s estate to limit the cost to the people of Southampton. We aim to comply with the requirements in a sympathetic manner.

The council does not provide a funeral service. However, under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, we have a statutory duty to make arrangements for the cremation or burial of the body of any person who has died or found dead in the city, where it is established after investigation that there is no alternative course of action.

If a person dies without a known next of kin we normally act on written instructions received from the local coroner's officer.

What happens next? 

Where the coroner has notified us of a death where, as far as he is aware, there is no one willing or able to make funeral arrangements we will search the deceased person's home to try and find a Will or any documents that will indicate the existence of any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.

Where we find details of family and friends we will endeavour to inform them or pass their details to the coroner involved.

Who pays for the funeral?

The cost of the funeral is usually met out of the estate of the deceased.

Where the deceased has not left a Will, the person arranging the funeral (normally their next of kin) is liable to meet the funeral costs.

If the next of kin is not willing or able to arrange and pay for the funeral, they will be asked to sign a disclaimer confirming this.

Funeral payments and the Social Fund

If the next of kin receives one of the following, then they may be entitled to a funeral payment from the Social Fund:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Pension Credit
  • Working Tax Credit which includes a disability
  • Child Tax Credit if your award is high enough
  • Housing Benefit
  • Universal Credit 

You can find more information about funeral payments on the GOV.UK website.

When and where will the funeral be held?

If nobody is willing or able to arrange the funeral we will take responsibility for the funeral arrangements. This includes registration of the death and instructing a funeral director to collect the body, provide a coffin and transport the deceased to the crematorium/cemetery.

Any known family and friends will be advised of the date and time of the funeral and are able to attend if they wish to do so.

Cremation or burial? 

Unless there is evidence that the deceased would have been against cremation, the funeral arrangements will be made for a cremation at Southampton Crematorium. If the person has left paperwork or told family or friends that they wanted to be buried, suitable arrangements for burial can be made.

Religious services 

It may not be possible for us to ascertain if the deceased was religious or non-religious, but we are happy to liaise with family and friends. If they wish to arrange for a minister or officiant to take the service they will be able to do so at their own expense. If a minister or officiant is chosen we would advise that they are given the opportunity to speak to family and friends before the service, to make the service a bespoke and personal one.

If a burial has been decided on, then a service by the funeral director will be held at the graveside and it is only normally the lack of a memorial that distinguishes the grave. No memorial is permitted on the grave.

Cremated remains 

The cremated remains of the deceased will be scattered in the grounds of Southampton Crematorium.

What happens to the person's property and personal effects? 

Welfare funeral staff have statutory authorisation to enter a property, under the provisions of section 61(1)(d) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, to ascertain the extent of the estate and to remove any items or assets which may assist in funding the funeral.

Any remaining property or effects will be removed from the property by the local housing authority or private landlord, whichever is applicable.


The above provision does not apply to anyone who dies in hospital or in an ambulance on the way to hospital. Under these circumstances, the responsibility lies with the health authority.