The rising cost of “paupers’ funerals”


19 November 2015

By Lisa Carter

The number of 'public health funerals' has risen by 11% in the past four years, according to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC. This 11% hike has by consequence seen a 30% increase in cost to local councils in holding these funerals, bringing the total figure to £1.7 million.

According to the research, councils have carried out 2,580 public health funerals in the year 2013-2014 which, though this may seem like a high number, is in fact a small fraction of the 500,000 or so people who die in the UK each year.

Industry spokesmen say this increase could be attributed to people living longer and then dying alone, coupled with a rise in funeral fees. Sandra Evans, assistant director of bereavement services at Cardiff City Council for 20 years, has said that when she started out her career, these funerals were much fewer in number, and tended to be in cases where the deceased was a vagrant or alcoholic. Nowadays, numbers have increased dramatically, and she is seeing a change in the circumstances of these funerals, ranging from estranged or divorced families, to those claiming they are unable to pay themselves. 

Across the whole of England, the north-west showed the highest number of public funerals, followed by London. Northern Ireland had the lowest figures. The biggest increase was here in the south-east, with a rise of 24% since 2009-10, with big increases also seen in Scotland, the West Midlands and Wales. 

The average cost of a funeral now costs £3,700, according to the Royal London Insurance company, with even a basic public health funeral now costing around £1,000.

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

If you require further information on this or other related issues please contact Lisa Carter on 01245 228127 or email