Bereavement benefits

Paul Lewis on a law change that will help unmarried parents

A bunch of red roses with a scattering of snow on them on a bench in Heaton Park in Manchester on New Year's Day during lockdown as the city of Manchester is moved into Tier 4 to help manage rising Coronavirus infection rates.

Couples who live together without being married or in a civil partnership are now entitled to bereavement benefits if one of them dies and they have children for whom they receive child benefit.

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At the moment, Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) of £3,500 plus £350 a month for 18 months is only given to a surviving parent who was married or civil partnered and under state pension age.  The change in the rules has been forced on the Government by two court decisions. Both held that denying the payment to unmarried parents discriminated against their children, who should not suffer because of their parents’ choice.

The first case was decided on 30 August 2018 and the change will be backdated to that date to include anyone who should have been entitled to bereavement benefits on that date if the law had been correctly applied.

BSP is paid to people under pension age whose spouse died on 6 April 2017 or later. A parent whose unmarried partner died at any time before that date will be entitled to Widowed Parent’s Allowance from 30 August 2018 if they have children, get child benefit, have not remarried etc, and were under state pension age. They will get the weekly benefit, currently £122.55 a week, backdated to 30 August 2018
for each week those conditions are fulfilled. Some could get more than £20,000.

A parent whose partner died on or after 6 April 2017 will get much less. If the death was on or after 30 August 2018 they will get a one-off
payment of £3,500 and a monthly payment of £350 for 18 months, so maximum payment will be £9,800.  If their partner died between 6 April 2017 and 29 August 2018, however, they will not get the initial £3,500 payment but will get the £350 per month payments until 18
months after the death. Some could get as little as £700.

Parliamentary rules mean the law won’t apply until around Easter 2022 – more details then.

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4. If you have a question for Paul you can write to him at paul.lewis@radiotimes.com he cannot answer personally but will endeavour to answer through his column

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