Government to slash bereavement benefits

family law

Bereaved families could find themselves up to £12,000 worse off following government cuts to benefit payments.

This week the House of Commons voted in favour of the new Bereavement Support Payment Regulations. Under these rules, parents who have lost their partner will only be entitled to support for 18 months.

Currently, when a parent is bereaved they are eligible for an allowance of up to £5,852 per year to help with childcare and other household costs. They can receive this for a maximum of 20 years or until they either move in with a new partner or become old enough to qualify for a state pension.

For those 45 and older without children, if they lose a partner they can claim up to £112.55 per week for 52 weeks.

The new regulations, which were approved by 292 votes to 236, will come into force on 6 April this year. Once in place these cuts are expected to save the government up to £100 million per year while bereaved families could lose anywhere between £6,000 and £12,000.

The measures have been strongly criticised. MPs received more than 4,000 letters of protest according to The Mirror. Charities WAY (Widowed and Young) and the Childhood Bereavement Network have also condemned the new regulations. The two organisations estimated that as many as 75 per cent of bereaved parents will be worse off as a result.

Alison Penny is the coordinator of the latter group. She said “the sad truth is that it is the next generation of bereaved children who will bear the brunt of these cuts”. These regulations will mean that “widowed parents will have to go back to work or increase their hours before their grieving children are ready”.

She said that many parents in this position do a fantastic job of rebuilding their lives around the needs of their children, adding:

“The last thing we should be doing is interfering with that by putting them under pressure to find work or face sanctions.”

Meanwhile WAY Chairman Georgia Elms said her organisation was “absolutely devastated that the government is forging ahead with these changes”. Although the government claims the new system will be fairer “there is nothing fair about taking money away from bereaved families who are already suffering so much” she insisted.

Earlier this week, the government announced reforms to the Probate Registry charges. In some cases the fees will be as much as 9,000 per cent higher. This has been labelled as a “stealth tax on bereaved families” as this service deals with the paperwork regarding a person’s money and property after their death.

Photo by Greg Knapp via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

View more from this author

Leave a comment