Rugby 'pauper funerals' in decline, contrary to national trend

Rainsbrook Crematorium
Rainsbrook Crematorium

Details obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the number of public health funerals in Rugby appears to be decreasing after a spike in 2014.

Rugby Borough Council spent £26,951 on a total of 18 public health funerals from 2010 to 2016, making the average cost £1,500 – which is less than half the average cost of a private funeral.

The number hovered between one and two per year from 2010 to 2011, while none were conducted in 2012.

The figure for 2013 returned to two before spiking to seven funerals in 2014.

The figure for 2015 was four and 2016’s was two.

Most of those receiving the funerals were over 60, with the oldest being 94, although a 29-year-old received one in 2013.

Public health funerals, sometimes colloquially called pauper’s funerals, are organised by local councils when the deceased has no next of kin, or when the deceased‘s estate is not sufficient to fund a funeral and any family members are unable or unwilling to fund any arrangements.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Funerals used to consist of a burial at Clifton Road Cemetery with a service held over the grave.

"A decision has now been made for funerals and a cremation to take place at Rainsbrook Crematorium.

"Funeral costs are reclaimed, if the deceased has any estate to claim from.”

It is not known how much of the council’s spending on funerals has been reclaimed.

Once seen as a Dickensian mark of extreme poverty and branded ‘pauper’s funerals’, public health funerals are on the rise.

Rugby Borough is an exception to a national trend revealed after the Lib Dems submitted FOI requests to councils across the country.

There has been a 47% increase in public health funerals between 2011 and 2015 - rising from 1,769 to 2,609.

Soaring funeral costs combined with an ageing and increasingly isolated population are some explanations.

Linda Thomas, vice-chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, told i newspaper: “People, mostly elderly, are dying around us with no family or friends nearby to care for them.”