December 18, 2015

Bereavement benefits: time for a better deal for the bereaved?

Bereavement payments

Invitation to share your experiences of bereavement benefits by 5 January

Aware that the current system of support for the bereaved is complex and out of date, the Committee has invited members of the public to write in by 5 January 2016 and share their experiences of trying to cope financially in the wake of bereavement.

Financial support for the bereaved can be crucial, but many people are not even aware of the possibility that it might be on offer.

Those who do manage to discover the different types of potential help available, may then find that through some quirk in the rules, they miss out because they aren’t eligible.

The Committee’s invitation follows on the heels of last month’s first ever Children’s Grief Awareness Week.

Types of welfare benefits available - and some drawbacks

The amounts and types of help available are various, including:

Social Fund payment to help people pay for funerals - if you are on a low income, you can apply for this, and receive up to £700 for funeral fees. But, as you may have found, some of the drawbacks include:

  • the level of help available has stayed the same for the past 10 years
  • funeral costs have risen above the rate of inflation and the payment is unlikely to cover these
  • the payments are made after the event.

Bereavement payment- this is a one-off £2,000 tax-free lump sum for those whose partner has died. But restrictions mean for instance that you only qualify if:

  • you’re under State Pension age
  • your partner paid enough National Insurance contributions
  • your partner’s death was job-related
  • you’re still married at the time of their death (and aren’t now living with someone else or in prison).

Bereavement allowance - a weekly payment for widows, widowers and civil partners during the first 52 weeks after the death of their partner. The amount you get depends on how old you are when your partner dies and how much National Insurance your partner paid, and can be between about £34 and £113 per week. But there are various restrictions, including:

  • you have to be aged between 45 and state pension age
  • you aren’t raising children
  • you haven’t re-married
  • the amount you get may be affected by other benefits you receive.

Widowed parents allowance - a weekly payment of up to £112 per week for those who are widowed and have dependent children. Restrictions include:

  • you have to be under state pension age
  • your partner needs to have made enough National Insurance contributions (unless the death was due to industrial disease)
  • you can only claim if your partner was the father of your dependent child
  • payments stop once child benefit payments stop
  • the amount you get may be affected by other benefits you receive
  • you can’t claim if you were divorced by the time of the death, or re-marry/cohabit.

Additional payments for dependants of victims of accidents

We in the Personal Injury team see families facing financial difficulties due to death of a loved one all too often.

Those suffering bereavement as a result of an accident or industrial disease (where death was the fault of someone else, not the deceased) will be entitled to claim various types of compensation, in addition to any welfare benefits mentioned in this blog.

We make sure that dependants are fully advised about claiming for these sums, including:

  • the statutory bereavement award (currently £12,980)
  • funeral expenses
  • probate expenses
  • loss of the deceased’s income and domestic support
  • any related claim in respect of psychological injury.
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