Council have spent £45k on paupers’ funerals

News story
News story

WIGAN Council has spent almost £45k on paupers’ funerals in the last five years, new figures reveal. Released through a freedom of information request, the numbers reflect an ongoing issue of residents dying penniless and with no family members to meet funeral costs.

Local authorities are law bound to arrange a funeral for any person “where there is no responsible person able or willing to make funeral arrangements.”

We’re talking about £800 to £1k per funeral, we can’t be expected to cover those costs, we’re a business just like any other with rates to pay

Brian Halliwell - R Banks & Son

Several charities, including Oxfam and The Trussell Trust, have suggested welfare cuts hitting the poorest families in society may have caused a nationwide rise.

And with elderly populations expected to rise in the coming decades there is a worry that there could be even more paupers’ funerals in the future.

The number of residents requiring a public health funeral – commonly known as paupers’ funerals – has risen from just five in 2010 to double figures in both 2013 and 2014 in Wigan.

With costs for the services rising to around the £1,000 mark, the 44 cases since 2010 have cost Wigan Council just short of £45k.

Brian Halliwell, of borough funeral directors R Banks & Son, told the Evening Post: “These funerals are the last resort and are terribly sad.

“But there is an issue with some families taking advantage of the system and expecting funeral directors to act as a charity in providing their services.

“We’re talking about £800 to £1k per funeral, we can’t be expected to cover those costs, we’re a business just like any other with rates to pay.”

Public health funerals cannot be organised by the family of the deceased who must pursue other options if they are struggling to meet costs.

In those circumstances, a Social Fund Funeral payment fund is available.

Last year research by the University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) suggested hundreds of thousands of those dying in 2014 would have struggled to afford funeral costs.

Across Wigan borough, the costs and number of the funerals has remained steady over the last two years with £12k in each year for 10 and 11 services respectively.

One such case occurred in March when an unidentified male was found by a dog walker hanged from an electricity pylon in Ince.

Despite strenuous efforts no next of kin could be found.