Published On: Sun, Aug 11th, 2019

Widow’s Pension and Bereavement Allowance: MP on unmarried couples rule | Personal Finance | Finance

Bereavement Allowance, previously Widow’s Pension, may be claimed by widows, widowers, or surviving civil partners over the age of 45 until they reach state pension age. This applies if their civil partner or spouse died before April 6, 2017. This is provided that their late husband, wife, or civil partner paid National Insurance contributions, or they died as a result of an industrial accident or disease. Meanwhile, a person may get the Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA) if their husband, wife, or civil partner died before April 6, 2017, they’re under state pension age, they’re entitled to Child Benefit for at least one child, and their late husband wife, or civil partner was their parent.

The other required condition is that the late husband, wife, or civil partner paid National Insurance contributions, or they died as a result of an industrial accident or disease.

The amount of WPA a person gets depends on how much their late spouse or civil partner paid in National Insurance contributions.

The maximum WPA is £119.90 per week, and it may be received up until the recipient stops being entitled to Child Benefit – unless they reach state pension age first, the government website states.

For those eligible for the Bereavement Allowance, the amount depends on the overall level of the deceased’s National Insurance contributions, as well as the survivor’s age at the time of their death.

This allowance may be received for up to 52 weeks from the date of their death.

In August 2018, mother-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin, from County Antrim, won a landmark court case, after she was not able to claim the Widowed Parent’s Allowance benefit under the old scheme, when her partner of 23 years died.

The Supreme Court ruled that the ban on unmarried couples accessing this benefit was incompatible with human rights law.

The court case was about Widowed Parent’s Allowance, however from April 6 2017, a new system, the Bereavement Support Payment (BSP), was introduced.

BSP can provide a one-off lump sum, followed by up to 18 regular monthly payments with the rates differing depending on whether a person is with dependent children or pregnant, or without dependents.

A DWP factsheet states: “Marrying, cohabiting or entering a civil partnership will not affect BSP eligibility.”

Should a person’s husband, wife, or civil partner have died on or after April 6, 2017, they may be eligible for BSP.

Ms Creasy told “It’s been nearly a year since our Supreme Court told the Government their ban on supporting bereaved families where the parents weren’t married was in breach of human rights.

“The Courts were clear children who had already suffered the trauma of losing a parent early in life did not deserve to pay the price for such an outdated view of family life and the Government had a responsibility to change that – but a year and a half later still this Government has done nothing to help address this blatant discrimination leaving many facing poverty at the same time as the loss of a loved one.

“With nearly three and a half million cohabiting couples in the UK, involving over a million with children what message does that send about what we think of them – and how many more have to suffer not only the pain of losing a parent, but also financial destitution before we recognise all parents as equals and all children as deserving our help?”

Writing to the Family Support minister soon after the Court ruling in September last year, Committee Chair Frank Field said: “The victims of this archaic policy are children, and the reform we suggested in 2016 might have cost nothing.

“It is quite incredible how the Government continues to resist righting this profound injustice, dismissing the Committee’s recommendations two years ago, fighting a grieving single mum all the way to the Supreme Court and even now, every day, telling another five bereaved parents that, because they weren’t married, their children will be penalised.

“The Select Committee will be taking up the cudgels to see this one family’s victory spread to all eligible families.”

The Child Bereavement Network estimate that each year, more than 2,000 families face the “double hit of one parent dying, and the other parent realising that they and the children aren’t eligible for bereavement benefits”.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting people during bereavement and have already widened the support available, as well as making sure the payments do not impact someone’s ongoing benefits. This is in addition to help for parents and children through the wider welfare system.”

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