More than £15,000 was spent on “paupers’ funerals” in Chichester last year, as more families are unable or unwilling to cover the costs of their loved ones’ arrangements.
Chichester District Council spent a total of £15,113 on public health funerals over the 2017-18 financial year, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by mutual insurer Royal London.
The Local Government Association said there are thousands of people across the country “with no family or friends to care for them or arrange, attend or pay for their funeral”.
Public health funerals, which are also known as paupers’ funerals, are “no frills” services provided by local authorities, which in general include a coffin and the services of a funeral director but do not include flowers, obituaries or transport for family members. Families can attend if they wish.
There were 11 carried out in Chichester in 2017-18, compared with eight in 2016-17.
The total cost of public health funerals across the UK in 2017-18 was more than £5 million, according to Royal London, which received responses from 275 local authorities.
More than 3,800 such funerals were carried out across the UK last year, costing councils an average of £1,403.
Nearly a third (31 per cent) of families who turned to their local council for a public health funeral did so because they were unable to foot the bill, Royal London found.
The mutual insurer said the average cost of a basic funeral is £3,757.
Other reasons for public health funerals included the deceased having no family, and families being unwilling to pay for the funeral.
The amount spent by Chichester District Council on public health funerals in 2017-18 increased by 52 per cent compared with 2016-17.
Louise Eaton-Terry, a funeral cost expert at Royal London, said: “More support is needed to help those struggling with funeral costs.”
An LGA spokesman said: “Public health funerals are a last resort but, where there is no-one able to pay for a funeral, councils will hold one in a respectful and dignified way.
“Councils will try to establish whether the deceased had any religious requirements to enable them to respect their wishes in the provision of a burial or cremation.”
He added: “The increase in these funerals is an extra pressure on over-stretched council budgets which pay for them.”
He said the figures also do not take into the account funerals paid for by the NHS when people die in hospital.
• Report by Joseph Hook, data reporter