Public Health Funerals
The Public Health Act 1984 confers a statutory duty on councils and health boards to cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or been found dead in their area, in any case where it appears to the authority that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being made otherwise than by the authority.
These funerals can often be referred to as ‘pauper’s funerals’ and the numbers of such funerals have soared in recent years, thanks to rising funeral costs and the increase in people dying alone.
Finders International are an heir hunting firm who are offering hard pressed Local Authorities and NHS Trusts a subsidy payment towards the cost of providing public health funerals. An authority has to make an application to Finders Funeral Fund for the payment and use Finders International to trace relatives. When the estate is over £5,000 Finders will charge the next of kin a commission fee. Details of the commission fee has not been disclosed however Heir Hunters that are being referred unclaimed estates and empty homes from a local authority can find themselves in a very lucrative business.
Heir Hunters Anglia Research are opposed to such arrangements and are calling on all local authorities to end such exclusive arrangements and follow the government guidance which is designed to protect next-of-kin. They suggest that when heir hunting firms are given cases exclusively by local authorities there is no competition and firms are charging 15 to 25 percent in fees.
It is not in the interest of the next of kin for Heir Hunters to be allowed to have exclusive arrangements with public bodies. Local Authorities should be instructed to by-pass the Heir Hunters and refer such cases direct to the Treasury.
If the government allows Local Authorities to continue with this practice it should be more transparent. Heir Hunters should publish their commission fees and the Local Authority should publish details of the estate and what enquiries they have made to trace next of kin.Tags: heir hunters, pauper's funerals, public health funerals