The tragedy of 'paupers' graves' in Hammersmith and Fulham has been revealed this week after the council said 18 public burials have been carried out in the borough over the last three years, including some in communal graves.
Of those 12 were of stillborn babies or foetuses sometimes buried in a mass grave to save burial costs. Hammersmith and Fulham Council burial guidelines allow it to bury up to four adults in a communal grave and nine babies together if the families do not have enough money for a burial or request a public rather than private ceremony, figures released this week show.
It costs £997 to bury an adult borough resident in a non-private grave although it free to bury a child. Alternatively a private adult burial costs £2,100 and £1,102 for a child.
Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: "Hammersmith & Fulham Council is committed to providing an appropriate burial or cremation service which caters for all levels of income, working with funeral directors and bereaved families. The borough supports good practice to bury every child and baby with dignity."
Like many London boroughs the local cemeteries are nearly full forcing the council to sometimes use communal graves to save space and costs. The council says baby burials are for still-born or non-viable foetuses who have died in hospital.
Families are offered the choice of a free burial in a non-private grave or a cremation. They are given a headstone at each grave and the arrangements are free to the parents.
If a borough resident dies penniless or without a will stating funeral arrangements the council attempts to trace their next of kin, but will arrange a suitable burial if it can not find loved ones.
Public burials:2009/10 (to date)
1 adult, 3 stillborn babies
3 adults, 2 stillborn babies, 2 non-viable foetuses
2 adults, 2 stillborn babies, 3 non-viable foetuses