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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Mid East Antrim Council reviews ‘Public Health Burial Policy’ due to rise in demand

Wooden cross on burial plot

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council has been reviewing its Public Health Burial Policy due to a rise  in demand.

A report presented to the council’s Environment and Economy Committee at a meeting earlier this week said that the local authority has delivered four public health burials, formerly known as paupers’ funerals, since the start of 2022.

It stated: “With public health burials apparently on the rise, a policy is required to deliver consistency in approach, ensure the dignity of the deceased and minimise the cost to council.

“No costs have been recovered to date with the most recent burial costing council £850 in funeral director fees alone.”

The council may be notified about a death by the Coroner Service or PSNI. It does not take responsibility if the death has occurred in hospital or in a nursing home.

Local authorities have a duty to bury or cremate the body of any person who has died or been found dead in its district where it appears to the borough council that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have or are being made under the Welfare Services Act (NI) 1971 within criteria where there are no relatives, friends or other bodies willing or able to take responsibility.

If a cremation takes place in these circumstances, ashes will be buried within a designated section of the local cemetery.

The council provides a section within cemeteries for burying those without next of kin and without the means to pay for their own burial. These have taken place in sections which to date have been known as “paupers’ sections”.

However, The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) has said the use of the term “pauper” is “outdated and no longer an acceptable term in the modern era” and suggests the use of a term such as "public health funeral” instead.

The NAFD was responding to a public consultation carried out by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for a review of cemetery rules and regulations.


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