Earlier this year, the Childhood Bereavement Network surveyed over 300 widowed parents about their experiences of finances, work and childcare. This fed into a response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into the new Bereavement Support Payment. Today, the Committee has reported and made significant recommendations to improve the way the benefit works to support grieving children and their parents.
Alison Penny, Director of the Childhood Bereavement Network, said
Following our evidence to the Work and Pension Committee’s inquiry into bereavement benefits, we welcome its call today for the Government to extend the duration of payments, and to consult on how to make payments to parents who were living with but not married to their partner.
A ‘second economic shock’ for families
The Government has stated that the new scheme of bereavement benefits introduced in April 2017 is no longer intended to replace the lost income of the parent who has died. But our survey of over 300 widowed parents showed that is exactly how many parents are using their payments, to meet the daily living costs of bringing up their children. Payments now stop after just 18 months, as opposed to the average claim under the old system of 5-6 years. This creates a second economic shock for many families with young children, at a time when they are still reeling from the death of one of the parents. Some told us how they were having to move house, increase their working hours before their children were ready, and sacrifice bereavement counselling and other expenses that were helping the family adjust to life without their mum or dad.
Children missing out on support
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in August 2018 that it was unlawful to deny bereavement benefits to a mother who was not married to her partner, the Government has still not acted to redress this injustice. We estimate that between four and five families a day face the double hit of one parent dying and the other realising that they are not eligible for financial support to help bring up their children, simply because they were not married. It is extraordinary, in this day and age, that children should miss out on support because of these these outdated and disrespectful criteria. We echo the Committee’s call for this to be redressed as soon as possible.
The Committee’s full report can be read here
The Childhood Bereavement Network’s evidence to the Committee can be read here
A note for widowed parents about the implications of Siobhan McLaughlin’s case can be read here
The Childhood Bereavement Network is part of the National Children’s Bureau