Councils across England and Wales are reportedly failing to effectively provide public health funerals to a required degree.
According to a “mystery shopping” investigation conducted by anti-poverty charity Quaker Social Action, 10 out of the 27 local authorities tested are not carrying out their legal duty with regard to public health funerals.
While councils in England and Wales are required to bury or cremate the body of a person who has died in poverty and cannot afford a funeral, the investigation revealed that many were turning away those who did not have the funds to pay.
Moreover, a survey conducted by the charity found that 65% of local authority websites were not following Government guidelines on public health funerals.
Of these, 14 councils had no information at all, and of the 26 that did, 12 offered no contact details, and many were met with unanswered phone calls or faulty lines.
Lindesay Mace, manager of Quaker Social Action’s Down to Earth funeral service, said: “It is a human right to be able to grieve in peace. Yet, at Down to Earth, every year we support hundreds of people unable to do this because they are struggling under the weight of funeral costs.
“Sometimes, the financial options are so limited, they simply cannot afford to take on the funeral arrangements. No one should be in this position, but hundreds of people are, every year.”
She added: “Seeking help from the local authority in this situation can take courage, and be bound up in many difficult emotions. The process needs to be compassionate, simple and equitable.
“It obviously needs to follow the law. This report shows a very different reality in many local authority areas.”