Press release

Better support for bereaved families

More people that have suffered the death of a spouse or civil partner will be entitled to increased support.

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The new modernised Bereavement Support Payment was announced on 12 January 2017 by Minister for Welfare Delivery Caroline Nokes. It will be introduced for those bereaved from 6 April 2017. It aims to provide more accessible help for spouses and civil partners in the difficult period following a family death.

Bereavement Support Payment replaces the outdated and complex 3-tier system of Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

The old Bereavement Allowance was only available to people aged over 45 at the time their spouse or civil partner died. The new benefit is available to people of any age up to state pension age, and extends support from 12 to 18 months. In addition, the new payment will now not be taxed, and will be subject to a disregard in the calculation of means-tested benefits and the benefit cap, helping those on the lowest incomes by providing extra cash at a time when it is needed.

Caroline Nokes said:

Losing a spouse or civil partner can be devastating and we want to provide people with easily accessible support to help them through the difficult period following bereavement.

The old system could be unfair, complex and also act as trap preventing people from moving on with their lives. That’s why we are modernising this support into a simple, uniform and easy-to-understand benefit that better reflects society and helps people through what can be a very difficult time.

The original bereavement benefits were introduced in the Widows and Orphans Act of 1925. Their purpose was to provide an early retirement pension for widows who had been dependent on their husband’s income. The last time these benefits were reformed was in 2001 when entitlement was extended to widowers. Today they are available to working-age people with children, or childless bereaved spouses and civil partners aged over 45.

The new Bereavement Support Payment restores fairness to the system by being available to all people under state pension age whose spouse or civil partner made sufficient National Insurance contributions.

Instead of the notion of bereavement benefits replacing the deceased spouse or civil partner’s earnings, the new Bereavement Support Payment is designed to help people with the additional and more immediate costs of the grieving period. This means a higher initial lump sum, and extending payments to 18 months to support them through a difficult time.

The Bereavement Support Payment consists of:

  • an initial lump sum of £3,500 for people with children and £2,500 for those without children
  • a further 18 monthly instalments payable to the surviving spouse or civil partner of £350 for those with children and £100 for those without

The monthly instalments are being extended from 12 months following recommendations from bereavement support groups.

The regulations for the new Bereavement Support Payment were laid in Parliament today and it becomes available to people whose spouse or civil partner dies on or after 6 April 2017.

Read the minister’s written statement about the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations 2017.

More information

There was a consultation on bereavement payments in 2011 and the Bereavement Payment Support was announced in 2014.

People will be entitled to receive the full payment as long as their late spouse or civil partner paid National Insurance contributions at 25 times the Lower Earnings Limit for any one tax year prior to their death.

Recipients of the Bereavement Support Payment who also receive Universal Credit, or contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, will be able to access Jobcentre Plus support on a voluntary basis from 3 months after bereavement. They will not be subject to conditionality for a further 3 months.

People already receiving the old bereavement benefits will continue to do so for the lifetime of their awards.

Payments made under the War Pension Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme are not affected.

The current rules

The current award for lump sum Bereavement Payment is £2,000.

The current average award for Bereavement Allowance (for those without children) and Widowed Parent’s Allowance is £104.51 a week.

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Published 13 January 2017