General Election 2017: an opportunity to improve support for widowed parents and their children

Over 94% of MPs have been contacted in recent months by constituents concerned about the replacement of Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Payment with the new Bereavement Support Payment from 6 April. These changes have received widespread negative attention in the media including the Daily MailVictoria Derbyshire show and the Sunday Times, and a cross-party group of peers have raised concerns.

The changes will leave 75% widowed parents worse off in cash terms. Latest DWP figures suggest that the average working widowed parent will be over £12,000 worse off.

Before 6 April 2017, payments, based on the deceased parent’s National Insurance contributions, were available until the youngest child left school, or until the bereaved parent moved in with a new partner. Now they are available for just 18 months and further benefits, through Universal Credit, are contingent on strict conditionality. The overall effect will be that widowed parents are forced back to work – or to work longer hours – before their grieving children are ready.

Under both the old and new systems, parents who were living with but not married to their partner are not entitled to support. This outdated inequality deprives 2,000 families with children of support each year.

The General Election offers an opportunity to make life a little easier for dying parents and grieving families. We are asking the parties to include commitments in their manifestos to:

  • rethink the reforms and consult on a fairer deal for families with longer term support for those with children; and
  • extend entitlements to co-habiting (but unmarried) parents whose partner dies. 

For more information, please visit the Childhood Bereavement Network website.