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Grieving families facing changes to bereavement support payments

Grieving families facing changes to bereavement support payments

Changes to financial aid for bereaved families have come into effect, leaving many new widows and widowers thousands of pounds worse off than under the old system.

Before the new rules came into effect on April 6, there were three types of bereavement benefit; bereavement payment, bereavement allowance and the widowed parent’s allowance. Under the widowed parent’s allowance, a lump sum of £2,000 was followed by a weekly amount of £112 for those with children aged up to 20 if in full time education and up to16 if not.

Under the new system, the initial payment to bereaved parents rises to £3,500 but the ongoing payment goes down to £350 per month - around £80 per week - and, crucially, can only be claimed for 18 months. Widowed spouses without children now receive an initial lump sum of £2,500, plus a monthly instalment of £100 for 18 months.

As the changes now allow widowers and widowers under the age of 45 to claim, young bereaved spouses and civil partners without children are set to benefit most. Charities including Cruse Bereavement Care and the Childhood Bereavement Network have expressed concern over some of the measures, which are estimated to leave around 75% of families worse off in cash terms.

According to the Association of British Insurers, more than six million people in the UK had life insurance in 2015, whether whole of life or term insurance. Having the right insurance in place can take care of the bills and allow you space to grieve as you adjust to a new way of life. The average outstanding mortgage in the UK is £100,000, while the cost of raising a child to the age of 11 is £85,000.

The Government’s Bereavement Support Payment web pages advise on who is eligible to claim, including people whose partner paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks or died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by work. Those in prison are not able to claim.

The new payments are part of a raft of benefit changes announced by the Government in 2015 and introduced in April. These include the decision to limit to two the number of children per family eligible for child benefit, except in a short list of extreme circumstances.