Public health funerals

Help with funeral arrangements and costs.

Last updated: 28 September 2023

Next review: 28 September 2024

London Borough of Waltham Forest and Government agencies can provide help and support if a family member or friend passes away and you are experiencing difficulties in making and paying for the funeral arrangements. The information below provides guidance and clarity on how we may be able to help.

When will the Council arrange a funeral?

The Council is responsible for making funeral arrangements for anybody who dies within the borough if:

  • no funeral arrangements have yet been made
  • no relatives of the deceased can be found, or
  • the relatives of the deceased cannot or will not arrange a funeral.

The Council is able to recover all the costs incurred in making the funeral arrangements from the estate of the deceased.

If the deceased died outside the London Borough of Waltham Forest, the funeral arrangements will be the responsibility of the local authority where they died, even if they lived within the borough.

Public Health funeral referrals can come from a number of sources including His Majesty’s Coroner, GPs, care homes, social workers or family members themselves.

If funeral arrangements have already been made, or the funeral has already taken place, the Council cannot provide any funding.  

Where the Council has accepted responsibility, we will deal with all aspects of the organisation of the funeral, including registering the death if this has not taken place.

We will aim to progress making the funeral arrangements as quickly as possible, however, this is subject to a number of factors including:

  • The Coroner’s Office, where applicable, has released the deceased for burial or cremation
  • Availability of registrars to register the death
  • Funeral Director's availability
  • Progress was made to locate friends or family members of the deceased.

Cremations and burials

A cremation service will normally be held unless it is established that the deceased would have chosen burial for religious or cultural reasons.

If a burial is required and the deceased did not previously own a grave, a burial will take place in an unmarked grave.

The council’s contracted funeral directors will provide everything necessary for a simple but dignified and respectful service, including a coffin, transport of the deceased to the crematorium or cemetery, and sufficient bearers to transfer the coffin to the chapel.

A public health funeral will not provide transport to the funeral for any mourners.

The funeral director may also be able to arrange for a minister of religion or a representative of the faith of the deceased to lead the service, subject to their availability. If a non-religious service is appropriate, a civil funeral celebrant will be used.

Family and friends are welcome and encouraged to attend the funeral service but will have no choice as to where and when it is held.

Making a referral

If you wish to explore the potential for the Council assuming responsibility for making funeral arrangements please email:

A member of the team will contact you to discuss the circumstances.

Executors of a will

The council will not be able to make funeral arrangements in cases where it is known or it is established that the deceased left a will and the executor has been traced; in these circumstances the executor would be expected to organise the funeral.


Following a cremation, and where no next of kin is known, the cremated remains will normally be scattered in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium.

Cremated remains may be released into the care of a close family member or friend. There is no fee payable for the release of cremated remains.

Death in a hospital

If the deceased died as an in-patient in Hospital and there are no relatives, the NHS Trust may assume responsibility for the funeral arrangements.