Public Health Funerals Policy Consultation

Closed 17 Jan 2024

Opened 13 Nov 2023

Results updated 19 Feb 2024



Hackney Council would like your views on a proposed Public Health Funerals Policy, which defines when and how a person who dies within Hackney will be considered for a Public Health funeral. 

A copy of the proposed policy can be viewed here.

A Public Health funeral is the cremation or burial of someone who has died, usually alone, is unclaimed and often without funds to provide for their own funeral.

The Council complies with national legislation on public health funerals.  Under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, we have a duty to make arrangements for the funeral or cremation of the body of anyone who has died or is found dead in the Borough, where it is established after investigation that there is no alternative course of action. 

Where we are notified of a death and no one has come forward to make the funeral arrangements, we will do what we can to trace next of kin and try to establish the religious beliefs or funeral preferences of the deceased.

Why your views matter

We would like to hear from all residents and anyone likely to be impacted by the proposed Policy. 

The consultation is open to all, but we would particularly encourage local residents to respond. We would particularly welcome responses from stakeholders responding on behalf of particular groups impacted by the proposed policy.

Please read the proposed policy and the Equality Impact Assessment before giving us your views. 

You can also collect a paper copy of the policy and questionnaire at the Hackney Service Centre or Hackney Town Hall. 

Further information:

For more information or if you have any questions about this consultation, please contact:  Tel: 020 8356 3000 or email

Frequently Asked Questions:
Why do we need a Public Health Funerals policy?

Hackney Council has a legal obligation under the 1984 Public Health Act to treat the deceased with dignity and respect. This means we must arrange for a funeral when there is no next of kin, or undue delay in making a decision about funeral arrangements by the next of kin or there is insufficient funds to pay for a funeral.

Will the proposed policy stop families from making their own arrangements for a deceased family member?

The council will only arrange for a public health funeral when the next of kin cannot be identified, when there is undue delay in making arrangements or the family can not pay for a funeral.

What if no next of kin is known?

If the deceased has no will or no known next of kin the council will make searches to try and identify a next of kin and then contact them to make arrangements for a funeral.

What if a family cannot afford to pay for a funeral?

The first call on the estate of the deceased is to pay for their funeral costs. The council is able to use any assets of the deceased to pay for a funeral.

If there are insufficient funds then family members can apply for funding and the council provides information on this at our website The policy makes provision for when the Council will arrange a Public Health funeral in the event that insufficient funding is available.

How does the Public Health Funeral Policy respect different cultural/ religious beliefs on how and when to arrange a funeral?

The cultural and religious practices around funerals differs across different communities. When considering what type of public health funeral to provide i.e. cremation or burial the council will respect any wishes expressed by the deceased or family members. The council will only provide for either a cremation or burial no other form of funeral will be provided.

Will there be a choice between a burial or cremation?

A Public Health funeral will provide for a cremation unless there are religious or cultural norms of the deceased that would suggest a burial would have been required.

Who regulates the storage of the deceased?

The Human Tissues Authority regulates how the deceased are stored.

Why is it necessary to have specific timing for when decisions need to be made in the policy?

The council needs to balance the legal requirement to treat the deceased with dignity and respect and also ensure that the next of kin has time to confirm if they will be making their own arrangements for a funeral. The Human Tissues Authority has indicated that the refrigerated storage of bodies should not usually be extended beyond one calendar month. As such we have sought to provide timeframes that comply with this whilst still providing next of kin/families with time to indicate whether they will arrange their own funeral.

If a next of kin is identified after a Public Health Funeral has been arranged?

If the deceased was buried then details of where the burial has taken place is available from Hackney Council, if the deceased was cremated then the ashes are stored at the local crematorium and an application to collect the ashes can be made by the next of kin

Why are there sometimes delays in being able to arrange a funeral?

In certain circumstances the deceased will be subject to investigations undertaken by the Coroner and these may take time to conclude which may mean the funeral arrangements for the deceased will have to wait for these to conclude. During this time Hackney council will arrange for the deceased to be stored in accordance with the regulations of the Human Tissues Authority.

If there is a need for an inquest does this delay when a funeral can be arranged?

Once the Coroner has concluded their investigations they will contact the family to confirm that a funeral can take place. It is not necessary to wait for an inquest to take place for a funeral to be arranged.

What happens next

Feedback received from the consultation will inform the final Public Health funerals Policy.


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