Public health funerals

Public health funerals are also known as national assistance funerals and paupers' funerals.

Brent Council’s role

If a person dies within the Brent area and there are no known relatives or friends able to make the necessary arrangements, then we are required (under The Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984) to register the death and arrange the funeral.

A public health burial is only carried out when it appears that no other agency or persons are willing or able to make suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body. Residents of Brent who pass away in another area are not the responsibility of the Council.

Executors of the deceased

If the deceased made a will, the council may not become involved in the undertaking of the funeral arrangements unless the executor revokes the will. If a will is found the Local Authority may contact the executor to ascertain their intentions. 


We will conduct a search of the property of the deceased with a view to finding details of next of kin, a will, or bank details etc.

What happens next?

Brent uses its own funeral service to make the arrangements on behalf of the deceased. We will only provide cremation or a simple burial in a common grave if specified by religious beliefs or express written wishes of the deceased. We will not pay for the cost of hearse, flowers or a grave marking..

The cremated remains of the deceased will be scattered in the gardens of remembrance unless other specific instructions are found amongst the deceased possessions or in a will. Any costs associated with specific instructions must however first be met either through the deceased's estate or by family members or friends. Where a family member wishes to retain the remains then they must be collected from the crematorium.

The Council is entitled to recover the costs of a funeral from the estate of the deceased by selling their belongings or claiming monies from a bank account. If you are in receipt of certain social security benefits, you may be entitled to a grant from the Department of Works and Pensions 

A death in a hospital

If the deceased person died in a hospital managed by a NHS Hospital Trust and no relatives can be traced or relatives are unable to afford the cost of the funeral themselves or they do not qualify for a Social Fund Funeral Payment, then the Bereavement Officer of the hospital in which the person died will assume responsibility for the funeral.

If the deceased died in a privately owned care or nursing home, it should be established initially by the home that there are no relatives to undertake the funeral and that no arrangements have been made.

Contact should then be made with the If the care or nursing home make any initial arrangements for the funeral they may be liable for these costs.

Property owners and landlords

Landlords should not enter the premises or remove any items from the property until the Environmental Improvement Team, Metropolitan Police or Coroner’s Officers have completed their enquiries. In normal circumstances, this will be undertaken as soon as practicable and the keys subsequently returned to the property owner.

The property owner is ultimately responsible for clearing the premises, previously occupied by the deceased unless there are relatives who are willing to undertake the task. Expenses incurred by the Landlord/property owner can either be claimed through the retention of any tenant deposit held for the premises or through a claim to the treasury solicitors if an estate exists.

Explanations on exceptions

This document will provide you detailed explanations on all the exceptions.

Public health funeral records