The government has announced a bereavement benefit cut for most parents who lose their partner.

MPs and bereavement groups have widely criticised the move that will leave 75% of newly widowed parents with less money.

How will bereavement support change?

From 6 April, widows and widowers with young children will only receive support payments for 18 months. Previously the payments would continue for a maximum of 20 years to assist with the care of dependent children.

  • Bereavement benefit payments are calculated based on the deceased spouse’s national insurance contribution. The amount is capped at £112.55 a week.
  • The new bereaved support will provide a larger lump sum after a death, increasing from £2,000 to £3,500. However, overall families will receive less financial support. The government expect to make a saving of £100m once the new plans are in place.
  • The benefit will also only apply to couples who are married or in a civil partnership. Those who are cohabiting but unmarried will receive no payments.

Payment reduction will help widows ‘readjust’

A Conservative minister defended reduction in payments, saying that the old system stopped people ‘readjusting’ to life without their partner.

Richard Harrington suggested that long-term payments were no longer needed in modern society, where women tend remain employed after marriage.

He said: “If a woman was widowed [in 1925], her sole source of income would disappear completely, so it was considered necessary to provide a replacement income for her to survive.”

‘Grieving children will bear the brunt of these cuts’

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and the Childhood Bereavement Network are among those calling for the government to reconsider the introduction of new bereavement payments.

Mandie Lavin, Chief Executive Officer of the NAFD said: “Funeral directors know at first hand that bereavement can have emotional and financial implications which last years, not months and that the impact on those caring for young children can be particularly acute, especially if the death of one parent affects the ability of the surviving parent to earn enough to support the family.

“The reality is that grieving children will bear the brunt of these cuts, as their surviving parent will have a huge hole in their household finances to fill, rather than focusing on supporting their needs as they mourn the loss of their mum or dad.”

Alison Penny, Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network, said: “Over 3,200 widowed parents and their supporters have written to their MPs to protest these cuts, on behalf of the next generation of bereaved families who don’t even know yet that they will be affected.

“The result of this policy will be that widowed parents will have to go back to work or increase their hours before their grieving children are ready. Most parents do an amazing job of getting back to work and building a new life around their children’s needs. The last thing we should be doing is interfering with that by putting them under pressure to find work or face sanctions.”