Failing in basic duties

Clearing up the dead bodies – providing paupers funerals – is one of those basic, basic, roles we institute government to perform for us:

Councils in England and Wales are abdicating their legal responsibility to provide so-called “pauper’s funerals,” often turning away low-income families who cannot afford to pay for relatives to be buried or cremated, according to Quaker Social Action.

The anti-poverty charity said its “mystery shopping” investigation into 40 local authorities’ approach to public health funerals in urban areas of the UK found 10 did not carry out their legal duty, and two-thirds did not follow government guidance.

They’re not even managing that basic, basic, duty. Which is rather why we don;t want them trying to decolonise the libraries, or invest in the High Street, given that they cannot manage those basic, basic duties even. Why allow them to try anything complex if they’re incompetent?

12 thoughts on “Failing in basic duties”

  1. formertory (and lately even more so)

    So since we don’t have a River Ganges conveniently to hand, what exactly happens to the bodies? I suppose Nottingham (which they questioned) might look furtively at the River Trent……

  2. Why should this be a function of government? Seems like charities would be far better equipped to deal with funerals or cremations.

  3. @snag
    It’s a default public health position (like providing public lavatories…yes, I know).
    Charities would undoubtedly (almost) do a better job and local authorities should not get in their way, but there has to a be a fallback for this and a very few other things.

  4. There are numerous TV commercials for “no fuss” cremations. Central government (a lesser evil than local government in this instance) should subcontract these providers to carry out the service and also pay a death grant to allow the family to give granny or grandad a bit of a send off. £500 should be perfectly adequate. No need for invoices which only create even more jobsworth’s checking and authorising or querying, just hand over the £500 to next of kin along with the death certificate.

    At 100,000 deaths a year £50m for the grants and say £100m for the cremations isn’t going to break the bank is it?

  5. This seems to be a story about a means tested benefit. Much depends on the criteria for eligibility and how clearly they are written. Plus the clarity of any supplementary ‘government guidance’. When I managed my local Citizens Advice Bureau, there was voluminous guidance on Homelessness. Council Officials didn’t always apply the guidance correctly. My local authority was always open to hearing reasoned argument as to why a particular decision might be wrong. Sometimes they changed the decision, sometimes not. In this case, I would need to see a lot more detail before knowing whether to get outraged or not.

  6. I think you can donate your body at no cost to science – to be cut up by ham fisted students – or to a ‘body farm’ to be dumped in the woods so forensic pathologists can watch it rot.

  7. A cousin of mine had an equivalent of a pauper’s funeral. His ex-wife was still down as next of kin and so she took control of proceedings, much to the rest of the family’s annoyance ( none of us liked her ). She found a company in North London, who specialised in no-frills funerals and they were paid direct by what was then the DSS. They hire the crematorium out of normal hours ( this was like 8 in the morning) and the whole thing was done and dusted in 15 minutes for a third of the cost of a normal funeral.

    This was a long time ago and things are a bit more expensive now so I suspect that the grant doesn’t cover the costs of even the cheapest interment and has to be topped up by the relatives.

  8. @AndrewC: yes you can, it’s essentially a ‘free’ funeral, because when they finish, they arrange one and invite you to attend. They also hold a yearly ‘service of thanksgiving’ too, that relatives of all that year’s intake get invited to.

    Still got the order of service from my father’s one. His father donated his body as he died from leukaemia (pretty unknown at the time) so he did the same (though it was the NHS that did for him..).

  9. My sister had to attend a pauper’s funeral while working as a local government wallah. Just her, the deceased and the vicar. Not a cheering experience.

  10. I’ve attended a pauper’s funeral. They’re not fun things.

    True, the vicar was no more clueless about the corpse than usual but that’s a comment about the CofE, not pauper’s funerals.

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