Wealden District Council
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Public Health Funerals

Our Duty to Carry Out Public Health Funerals

The Council has a duty to arrange for the burial or cremation of any person who dies or is found dead in its area, where it appears that no funeral arrangements are being made or are likely to be made. The Council is usually called upon where people have died either without family or without family who are willing or able to make the necessary arrangements.

You should be aware that a Council arranged funeral will comprise of a simple service. We will provide a celebrant or representative of the deceased’s faith, a coffin, transport of the deceased to the crematorium or cemetery in a hearse, and sufficient bearers to transfer the coffin to the chapel. We allow for both burial or cremation as an option, but cannot provide a headstone, order of service or flowers. A headstone or marker can be added by family at their own cost as we do not use common graves but rather individual plots.

The costs incurred will be claimed back from the deceased’s estate (bank account, savings, investments, sale of valuables or a charge put against any property owned) Funeral costs have first call on any estate. If there is no estate, no costs will be claimed back.

Before you apply for a Public Health Funeral please read through the alternatives below, which would allow you to have more control over the funeral arrangements.

Funeral Expenses and Alternatives

If you are unable to meet the cost of funeral expenses and are in receipt of certain state benefits, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the Department for Work and Pensions. They will cover reasonable burial or cremation costs, and up to £1000 contribution to other funeral expenses. For more information please visit Get Help with Funeral Expenses

You can also get free help from Down to Earth an organisation which offers practical support to those struggling with funeral costs and assistance with applying to the DWP. They have produced an online eligibility checker tool for the DWP payment and a guide to planning an affordable and meaningful funeral

If you are unable to meet the cost of funeral expenses and are not in receipt of state benefits, you may wish to first check the funeral costs in your area. Funeral directors are now legally obliged to display their standard prices in their window and on their website. You can also use the comparison sites Your Funeral Choice  and Funeral Guide or look into direct cremation, a new low cost funeral option where the deceased is taken away for cremation and the ashes are returned by courier for you to carry out your own personal service or scattering. It is also worth asking funeral directors if they will accept instalments or offer payment plans so that you can spread the cost.

If you have lost a child under 18 or have had a stillborn baby after the 24th week of pregnancy, the children’s funeral fund can help pay for some of the costs.

You do not legally have to use the services of a funeral director at all, and can reduce costs significantly by carrying out the funeral planning yourself, buying elements of the funeral separately and online. Guidance on how to do this is available from The Natural Death Centre

It is finally worth noting that if the deceased has funds in their bank account, you can make arrangements and then ask the bank to raise a cheque or make a transfer to a funeral company before the funeral, meaning that you do not have to raise any funds yourself. 


If a Public Health Funeral is needed please call Environmental Health on 01424 787550. Out of hours please contact our funeral director Haine and Son of Polegate on 01323 489127. The deceased must have died within Wealden to be within our remit. Please note that we will need to access the deceased’s property and will freeze their estate for the duration of the funeral planning. We work with family and friends to ensure this is done sensitively. We also allow family and friends to plan the funeral, attend the service and claim the ashes.

Register of Public Health Funerals

Due to the frequency of Freedom of Information requests concerning assisted burials, we publish these online

Private Burials

Private burials on land other than a recognised burial ground or cemetery, such as a domestic garden, are possible providing certain procedures are followed. Please see the guidelines set out by The Natural Death Centre  Council permission and planning permission is not required.


The removal of human remains need to be carried out safely and with dignity and respect.

It is illegal to proceed without lawful authority. Permission is needed from the Diocese/Bishops Faculty and in some cases a licence is required from the Ministry of Justice.

Our Environmental Health Officers attend to witness proceedings and to ensure there are no health hazards.

A funeral director must be involved. As a first step it is advisable to contact your local funeral director