We are actively campaigning to improve provision for bereaved families around three key areas: unmarried cohabiting partners and bereavement benefits, changes to bereavement benefits from April 2017 and the rising costs of funerals and funeral poverty.
Unmarried cohabiting partners and bereavement benefits
The Government has published a Remedial Order - read on to find out more
The Government agreed to update legislation to ensure that the surviving partner of cohabiting couples with children can also claim bereavement benefits. To do this, the government has published draft legislation in the form of a remedial order, which extends the eligibility of surviving cohabiting partners with dependent children to claim Widowed Parents Allowance or Bereavement Support Payment.
What does the Remedial Order say?
The Remedial Order does three important things:
- it extends the current legislation to make provision for the remaining partner of a cohabiting couple to claim bereavement benefits
- it offers transitional protection, meaning anyone who is claiming the benefit now will be not be disadvantaged by this proposed legislation
- it provides the opportunity for retrospective applications from 30 August 2018, meaning once this legislation is enacted you will be able to make a backdated claim for the relevant benefits, provided you met the criteria for that benefit at the time.
What does it mean for me?
If your bereavement benefit claim was turned down because you were the surviving member of a cohabiting couple with children, you will be able to apply again provided you meet the benefit eligibility criteria. However, we anticipate that this legislation will not be enacted until Spring 2022, so you will not be able to apply before then.
What happens next?
There are now a number of steps before the remedial order becomes law, which includes two separate 60-day reviews in Parliament. After the first review, any submissions or recommendations must be published along with either the original order, or a new draft that incorporates any changes. The order is then laid again before Parliament to review and finally vote on, after which the order becomes law.
We will continue to campaign to ensure that this legislation is as fair as possible for all bereaved families. We will provide more updates on this page as we find out more information.
Ask your MP to sign our open letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
We estimate that one in five parents raising children can't claim bereavement benefits if their long-term partner dies, because they weren't married or in a civil partnership before the death. Recent court judgements have ruled that these eligiblity criteria breach parents' and their children's human rights. We have published an open letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, asking for a comprehensive response in any Remedial Order presented by the government.
You can take action to ask your MP to improve support for grieving children whose parents lived together but weren't married. These families are currently denied bereavement benefits. Use our template letter to ask your MP to sign our open letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
- Our note for parents summarises what the court cases mean
Our briefing summarises the situation.
In August 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of mother-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin, who had appealed her ineligibility to Widowed Parent's Allowance. She had been with her partner for 23 years before he died. Read our joint statement with the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) here. We intervened in Siobhan McLaughlin's case, and our submissions can be read here. We were able to intervene after receiving pro bono support from specialist public lawyers at national law firm Irwin Mitchell and human rights barrister Stephen Broach from Monckton Chambers.
In February 2020, the High Court ruled in favour of two fathers and their children, who had been denied Bereavement Support Payment because they were not married to the children's mothers. Our Director gave a witness statement to the Court. Read our joint statement with CPAG here.
The Government has announced it will not appeal this judgment. We are urging the Government to bring forward legislation to amend the eligibility rules as quickly as possible.
Changes to bereavement benefits from April 2017
We are concerned about the impact of the government's replacement of Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parents' Allowance with the new Bereavement Support Payment from 6 April 2017.
We estimate these changes will mean that 91% of newly widowed parents are supported for a shorter time, and 75% are worse off than they would have been under the old scheme. A minority of widowed parents will be better off than under the old scheme, as BSP won't be taken into account for calculating entitlement to means-tested benefits.
If you want to take action about these changes, read our guide to meeting your MP.
We've been leading a coalition of organisations concerned about these changes. Read our latest briefing.
We've joined the Life Matters taskforce to think about solutions and recommendations on how the nation could better support bereaved parents, partners, and children both financially and emotionally. Read our news release or watch our film below.
What about families who are worried about the impact?
Although we can make clear statements about how the changes will affect groups of widowed parents, it is almost impossible to predict the impact on a specific individual family, and to work out whether they would be worse off under the old or new scheme of bereavement benefits.
For parents who are terminally ill and worried about the future of their family, it is important to make sure they are claiming all the benefits they are currently entitled to. There is a good guide here, with specific information for people whose death ‘can reasonably be expected’ in the next six months.
People can’t currently claim bereavement benefits if they weren’t married to their partner, so it makes sense for unmarried couples to seek advice about how they can make sure their family is supported post-bereavement. You can find an adviser here.
The Plan If website has more suggestions for parents of things they might want to put in place in case they die before their children grow up.
Funeral costs are rising faster than inflation. Concerned about the impact on children in families forced into poverty through funeral expenses, we have joined the Funeral Poverty Alliance. Read more here.