The council is responsible for making funeral arrangements for anybody who dies within their boundary if:
- no funeral arrangements have been made
- no relatives of the deceased can be found or
- the relatives of the deceased can not or will not arrange a funeral.
This responsibility is placed on the council by S46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. S46 of the Act also states that the council may recover all their costs incurred in making the funeral arrangements from the estate of the deceased (i.e. their property and possessions).
If the person in question died outside of the borough boundary, the funeral arrangements will be the responsibility of the local authority where they died, even if they had lived in Tower Hamlets.
If funeral arrangements have already been made, or the funeral has already taken place, the council will not be able to get involved. We cannot provide any funding for funeral arrangements to families, whether the funeral has taken place or not.
Once the council has accepted a case, it will deal with all aspects of the organisation of a funeral, including registering the death, dealing with the funeral directors to make the arrangements and paying for the funeral.
A cremation service will normally be held, unless it is established that the deceased would have chosen burial for religious, cultural or personal reasons, or if a check reveals that the deceased owned a grave and there is room for them to be buried in it. If a burial is required and the deceased did not own a grave, burial will take place in an unmarked public grave.
The council's contracted funeral directors will provide everything necessary for a simple but dignified service, including a coffin, transport of the deceased to the Crematorium or Cemetery in a hearse, and sufficient bearers to transfer the coffin to the chapel.
The funeral director may also arrange for a minister of religion or a representative of the faith of the deceased to lead the service. If a non-religious service is appropriate, a civil funeral celebrant will be used. Family and friends may attend the funeral service, but will have no choice as to where and when it is held.
To the casual observer, the funeral will appear no different to a simple ceremony not arranged by the council.
Following the cremation, the cremated remains will normally be interred in an unmarked but recorded location in the Gardens of Remembrance at the crematorium. In exceptional circumstances the cremated remains may be given into the care of a close family member or friend.
The council will not be able to make funeral arrangements in cases where the deceased left a will and the executor is traced; in these circumstances the executor would be expected to organise the funeral. If the executor wishes to revoke their duties, they must make a formal renunciation of the will and declare that they wish to have no further involvement in the funeral arrangements.
If the deceased died as an in-patient in a hospital managed by an NHS Trust and there are no relatives, the NHS Trust may assume responsibility for the funeral arrangements and recover their expenses from the deceased's estate.