Almost 100 people given 'paupers funerals' in Plymouth since 2008
ALMOST 100 people in Plymouth have been buried in so-called 'paupers' graves'.
The depressing statistic paints a harrowing picture of people in the community dying penniless and in isolation.
Plymouth City Council have had to step in to arrange and pay for the funerals of 94 people since 2008.
It has a legal duty – under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1985 – to intervene when someone dies and there is no family willing or able to pay for the arrangements.
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The figures on state-funded funerals were released to The Herald through the Freedom of Information Act.
But the reality could be much worse, since people who die in hospital are the responsibility of Plymouth Hospitals Trust.
Oxfam say the figures are a reflection of "inequality not seen since Victorian times."
The council says the statistics "present a worrying picture of isolation and loneliness."
The authority has a contract with a local funeral director to provide funerals for people who die with nothing and nobody.
It costs £950 each time for the transport of the body (hearse), coffin, officiant, and burial or cremation.
Often only funeral directors and council officials are in attendance at the graveside.
They do not provide any floral tributes.
A council spokesman said: "These are indeed sad, but isolated, cases where no arrangements have been made for a funeral and there appears to be no family to help with costs or arrangements.
"We try to recover the costs from the deceased's estate or from a family member.
"If details of family and friends are found they will be informed of the death and invited to make arrangements.
"If it is not possible to contact a family member the cost will be met by the council."
But council chiefs make attempts to claw the cash back.
The spokesman continued: "If the deceased left furniture or other personal effects, arrangements will be made to sell these items and money recovered offset against the cost of the funeral."
Councillor Brian Vincent, cabinet member for the environment, urged people to prepare for the future.
He said: "We know that other councils are noticing an increase in the number of people dying without making arrangements or dying alone without family or friends willing or able to pay for burials and cremations, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the cost.
"Our ageing population is growing and these figures present a worrying picture of isolation and loneliness.
"That said, there's a saying about death and taxes being the only certainties in life, if there is one thing that can be highlighted here, it is that it makes sense for people to take out funeral plans."
A spokesman for poverty charity Oxfam blamed the government for the shocking statistic. Chris Johnes, Oxfam's director of UK poverty, said: "It is very sad to see the poorest in our society hardest hit.
"We need to see income being distributed more fairly if we are to make any impact on reducing levels of poverty; if we carry on down this path the UK will return to levels of inequality not seen since Victorian times."
The number of people buried in a 'pauper's grave' was 27 males and one female in 2008/09 but significantly dropped to five male and three females the following year.
In 2010/11 it rose again to 15 men and two women, and was then 14 males and six females in 2011/12. But it shot up further again in 2012 and the first couple of months of this year, with 17 men and four women needing the council to step in after their deaths.