Parliament inches closer to making thousands of grieving cohabiting families eligible for bereavement benefits

MPs today debated the Bereavement Benefits (Remedial) Order 2022, which will now be brought to the main House of Commons for a vote.

  • MPs this morning debated changing eligibility criteria for bereavement benefits so that cohabiting parents and their children can get support.
  • These changes will now be subject to a vote in the House of Commons.
  • If approved, around 21,000 families who have previously been denied support because they weren’t married or in a civil partnership would be able to apply for retrospective payments and around 1,800 more families each year would be eligible for support.
  • Charities urge MPs to approve the changes and bring justice for grieving children.

MPs today debated the Bereavement Benefits (Remedial) Order 2022, which will now be brought to the main House of Commons for a vote. After a decade-long campaign, this upcoming vote could pave the way for bereavement benefits that help bring up dependent children to be paid to cohabiting parents.

Around 1,800 parents a year currently miss out on these payments because they were living with but not married to or in a civil partnership with their partner when they died. In addition, more than 21,000 families stand to be eligible for back payments going back to 30 August 2018 if the Remedial Order is approved. The benefits are based on National Insurance (NI) contributions of the partner who died.

Following news released by the Office of National Statistics that shows for the first time ever, more babies were born in the UK last year to parents not married or in a civil partnership[1], this means that thousands of bereaved children have been missing out on this vital support, currently worth £9,800.

The Supreme Court ruled in August 2018 that it was unlawful to deny the old-style Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA) to families where the parents had been cohabiting before one of them died[2], and the High Court made the same ruling in relation to the new-style Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) in February 2020[3].

After many years of delay, the Government has now introduced a Remedial Order to correct the injustice. Last Tuesday, the House of Lords approved the Order, and today a Delegated Legislation Committee in the House of Commons debated it. It will now come to the main House of Commons for approval.

If it comes into force, the Remedial Order will change the criteria so that going forward, newly bereaved cohabiting parents will be able to claim on behalf of their grieving children. Families who were previously denied these benefits from 30 August 2018 onwards will also be able to claim for retrospective payments.

The Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) estimates that up to 21,000 families could be eligible for a back payment. Charities are waiting for more details from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about how and when people can make their claims if the Remedial Order is approved.

Since 2011, The Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) has coordinated a campaign with other charities including WAY Widowed and Young, Child Poverty Action Group, Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, Quaker Social Action and many others, to extend eligibility to cohabiting families with children.

Alison Penny MBE, CBN’s Director, said:

We are waiting on tenterhooks for the vote in the Commons in the coming days. If MPs approve the Order, the campaign for justice for these vulnerable children will have cleared its final hurdle. That will pave the way for the scheme to open for new claims, meaning cohabiting families will no longer face the double hit of being refused financial support following the death of their mum or dad, simply because they weren’t married. If approved, it will also mean that over 20,000 families who were previously denied these benefits will be eligible for back payments to 30 August 2018.

As well as providing these families with crucial financial support, these changes would also send an important message to bereaved children and young people across the country that they matter, whatever their parents’ marital status. As a society, it’s vital that we support ALL bereaved children, whatever their circumstances.

Georgia Elms, Campaign Ambassador for WAY Widowed and Young, said:

We are sad that it has taken so long to get to this point. Many of the families who could be in line for back payments if the Remedial Order is approved have endured years of financial hardship and lack of recognition as they waited for these changes.

We want to say a huge thank you to the brave parents who brought the cases on behalf of affected bereaved families and who shared their stories over the many years to highlight this injustice, as well as their legal teams and everyone who has signed petitions, written to their MPs and worked tirelessly over more than a decade to help bring us to the brink of change.

If the Remedial Order is approved, reaching eligible families with news of the changes will be crucial. Those eligible for a back payment will have a 12-month window within which to get the full amount they are entitled to.

Claire Hall, solicitor at Child Poverty Action Group, said:

If the Remedial Order is approved, we would like to see Government proactively contacting those families who might be eligible for back payments. Failing that, it must work in partnership with the money advice and bereavement sectors to make sure that all eligible families get to hear about the changes and get high quality information about how to claim and what impact back payments will have on their wider financial position. Government must be particularly clear in communications to those whose back payments of Widowed Parent’s Allowance will have implications for their tax and social security entitlements.

Charities had called on Government to make retrospective payments to families bereaved earlier than 30 August 2018. Under the Remedial Order, families bereaved before that date will not get the same amount as their counterparts in a legal union. Charities are calling on Government to set up an ex-gratia payment scheme to provide a further, proper remedy to these families.



Notes for editors

For further information, contact


About bereavement benefits

For more information on the changes, visit the Childhood Bereavement Network website

A full summary of the background is presented in the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ Draft Bereavement Benefits (Remedial) Order 2022: Second Report.

WAY Widowed and Young also has more background information here


Who will benefit from the changes if the Remedial Order is approved?

The Childhood Bereavement Network estimates that if the Remedial Order is approved, going forward around 1,800 additional parents a year who face the death of their cohabiting partner would be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment (BSP).[4]

Additionally, three groups would be eligible for retrospective payments. Provided they claim within a 12-month window, we estimate that:

  • around 10,200 parents bereaved before 6 April 2017 would be able to make a retrospective claim for Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA) back to 30 August 2018.[5] We estimate these claims will be worth up to around £28,000 before tax – although most claims will be significantly smaller than this.
  • around 10,500 parents bereaved after 6 April 2017 would be able to make a retrospective claim for BSP.[6] The draft RO is complex but we understand that:
    • for the approx. 2,000 bereaved between 6 April 2017 and 30 August 2018, these claims would be for £350 x the number of months they would have been eligible from 30 August 2018 onwards.[7]
    • for the approx. 8,500 bereaved after 30 August 2018, these claims would be for £9,800.

About the Childhood Bereavement Network

The Childhood Bereavement Network, based at the National Children’s Bureau, is the coordinating hub for services across the UK that offer direct support to children and young people who have been bereaved of a parent or sibling. For more information visit:  

About WAY Widowed and Young

WAY Widowed and Young is a UK charity that offers a peer-to-peer support network for anyone who’s lost a partner before their 51st birthday – married or not, with or without children, inclusive of sexual orientation, gender, race and religion.

Founded just over 25 years ago, WAY now has more than 4,600 members across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

For more information, visit

About the Child Poverty Action Group

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) works on behalf of the more than one in four children in the UK growing up in poverty. The charity uses its understanding of what causes poverty and the impact it has on children’s lives to campaign for policies that will prevent and solve poverty – for good.  It provides training, advice and information to make sure hard-up families get the financial support they need and carries out high-profile legal work to establish and protect families’ rights. More information at





[4] Around 30,000 parents successfully claimed Higher Rate BSP over the 60 months since it was introduced in April 2017: around 6,000 per year. DWP estimates only around 84% of people eligible for BSP claimed it. 6,000 / 84% x 100% = 7,143. Around 20% of couple families with dependent children are cohabiting, 80% are married or in a civil partnership (ONS, 2022). 7,143 / 80% * 20% = 1,786 per year.

[5] The caseload of parents claiming Widowed Parent’s Allowance in August 2018 was 34,254. (((34,254 / 84%) x 100%) / 80%) x 20% = 10,195.

[6] Assuming the RO comes into force in February 2023, this will be 5.92 years since BSP was introduced in April 2017. 5.92 x 1,786 = 10,567.

[7] Claims must be made within 12 months of the RO coming into force to receive retrospective payment of WPA or retrospective payment of the full amount of BSP that is owing.