Number of 'paupers' funerals' rises by 16% in North East

Picture by PA
Picture by PA

The number of 'paupers' funerals' has gone up by 16% in the past five years, figures have shown.

Authorities in the UK collectively spent around £4million on "paupers' funerals" in 2015/16, research by mutual insurer Royal London has found.

The firm, which analysed freedom of information (FOI) responses from across the UK, said the number of public health funerals has increased by 16% over the previous five years in the North East, and 12% nationally.

A public health funeral, also known as a pauper's funeral, is held by a local authority when someone who has died has no family or the family are unable to cover the cost of the funeral.

There were 87 in the North East in 2015/16 costing £93,481 - an average of £1,074 per funeral.

The insurer said FOI data from 260 local authorities showed there were 3,784 public health funerals across Britain in the financial year 2015/16.

The total cost of these funerals amounted to £4million.

Royal London said the total cost of public health funerals to councils across the UK had increased by more than a third (36%) over the past five years.

Some 211 councils contacted provided data on public health funerals for the financial years 2011/12 and 2015/16.

The data is based on those local authorities who provided information, and in some cases, the cost of a funeral may have been recovered by the council from the estate of the person who had died.

Louise Eaton-Terry, a funeral cost expert at Royal London, said: "It is always upsetting when the deceased has no family to arrange a funeral, or when their family simply cannot afford one.

"In these cases, local councils take on the responsibility of paying for a funeral and it's evident that councils are facing increasing pressure to accommodate the rising number of public health funerals in the UK."

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the Local Government Association (LGA)'s community wellbeing board, said: "These tragic figures speak for themselves.

"It is a sad fact that there are thousands of people, mostly elderly, across the country with no family or friends to care for them or arrange, attend or pay for their funeral."

She added: "Public health funerals are a last resort and many people on low income are entitled to a social fund funeral."

The insurer cautioned with the figures that the list is based only on those councils that provided it with the data requested (some did not hold this information)