Learning about change, loss and bereavement

Amid Brexit chaos, we’d be forgiven for thinking that the business of Parliament had ground to a halt. But last week, the House of Commons did manage to find something that almost all MPs could agree on. And it has the potential to improve children’s understanding of how to support one another – and themselves – at times of change, loss and bereavement.

MPs voted to approve the long-awaited regulations for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education, by 538 votes to 21. But how is this new learning related to children’s ability to cope when someone close to them dies?

The new curricula

Essentially, from September 2020, every pupil in England will now be guaranteed a curriculum that includes health education and relationships education. New statutory guidance sets out what the curricula for these subjects should and must contain, including ‘how relationships may affect physical and mental health and wellbeing‘. The philosophy behind the new subjects is focused on mental well-being:

“Teaching about mental wellbeing is central to these subjects, especially as a priority for parents is their children’s happiness. We know that children and young people are increasingly experiencing challenges, and that young people are at particular risk of feeling lonely. The new subject content will give them the knowledge and capability to take care of themselves and receive support if problems arise.

All of this content should support the wider work of schools in helping to foster pupil wellbeing and develop resilience and character that we know are fundamental to pupils being happy, successful and productive members of society. Central to this is pupils’ ability to believe that they can achieve goals, both academic and personal; to stick to tasks that will help them achieve those goals, even when the reward may be distant or uncertain; and to recover from knocks and challenging periods in their lives.”

Learning about loss and bereavement

Here at the Childhood Bereavement Network, we know that the challenge of bereavement faces the majority of children before they leave school. We’ve long advocated that school should be one of the places where children have an opportunity to learn about change, loss and bereavement. As one young person said

“It’s kind of ironic because it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed in life, but they won’t teach you about it.”

And of course, children are learning about these topics every day – through the news, through their own family experiences, through films, songs and social media. We can’t possibly shield children from these experiences, but we can shield them from feeling alone with their fears and worries. In response to our recent survey, a parent said

“It is very important to help children know what they are experiencing is ‘normal’ or to help them understand what a bereaved classmate is experiencing.”

As well as preparing individual pupils, a school which teaches these topics is also likely to be better prepared if there is a death in the school community: a pupil, parent or staff member. Schools often wish they had planned their response before something happened.

What the curriculum should include

We’ve been advocating for the curriculum to include opportunities to explore and discuss these topics, particularly

  • changes and differences in families
  • life-cycles and understanding death
  • understanding and managing feelings, and seeking help.

As pupils get older, the likelihood that they have themselves experienced bereavement grows. A spiral curriculum allows pupils to explore issues at increasing depth, and with a greater chance that they will be reflecting on their own experiences. They are likely to have questions about fairness/justice, different beliefs around death and bereavement, supporting themselves and others with overwhelming feelings, and finding appropriate support including outside the family.

The opportunities to address these topics are implicit in the new curricula, rather than set out explicitly. And because these topics are sensitive, there is a risk that teachers will avoid teaching them. While the new curricula are a great start, we would have liked to see a stronger steer to schools.

Across the sector, we have more work to do to support teachers, school leaders and governors to understand why these topics matter, the resources that can help to teach them, including curriculum materials, staff training and input from local child bereavement organisations.

What else needs to be in place?

Meeting the needs of all learners on a topic such as bereavement goes beyond the content of the programme of study. Many children’s first experience of death and bereavement will be a personal one: the death of a pet, family member or friend, and so lessons on these topics will speak directly to their own experience.

For this reason, curriculum development must be part of a whole school approach, involving proactive and flexible pastoral support, a system for managing and communicating important information about bereavements, staff training and support, and policy development.

Pupils in special schools are more likely than others to experience the death of a peer, and mainstream schools can learn from the expertise developed by special schools in supporting their communities.

Young people’s suggestions to us about what could help to make school a good place to learn about death and bereavement included

  • teachers checking with young people who have recently been bereaved whether they are happy to join in the lesson
  • no pressure to talk about personal experiences
  • somewhere quiet to go or someone to talk to after the lesson if they are feeling
  • clear suggestions about where to get  further help and support.

What next?

Ahead of September 2020, we’ll be working with CBN members to produce guidance for schools about how to select high quality materials and training. We’ll also be working with OFSTED around their new inspection framework. We think this has the potential to drive change, through inspectors having an eye for how schools are helping pupils prepare for and manage change, loss and bereavement. Read more on our schools work here.

Local child bereavement services can use the new curricula to reach out to schools and remind them of their offer of support to develop both the curriculum and pastoral support.

Schools can find their local child bereavement service here and contact them for details of the support they can offer.

 

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Making bereaved children more visible

Today’s news from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) makes sobering reading: around 7,000 children born each year in England and Wales are likely to face the death of their mother before they reach 16.

All too often, bereaved children can seem invisible in society. ONS’ work begins to put this right.

We have long campaigned for better official information about the number of children affected by the death of a parent, and how this influences their lives and futures, most recently as part of the Life Matters taskforce. We’re really pleased that ONS is helping to help shine a light on the impact that early bereavement can have.

The numbers are stark, and it’s very painful to think that those babies will face such a huge loss during their childhood.

But we know that many will be very well supported by their dads, their wider family and friends, and their schools, and will manage the challenges that bereavement brings. Others will struggle to get the support they need, and will benefit from help from organised services. That might include creative sessions getting to know other bereaved children, a chance to ask the questions that have been bothering them about how their mum died, or simply a time to talk about and remember her.

Estimates like today’s are hugely helpful for bereavement services, who need to know how many children in their area might need their support in the future. We need similar information on the number of children who will face the death of their father, brother or sister, or someone else important in their lives.

Of course, from the raw numbers we can’t know which children are likely to face this challenge during their childhood. That’s why our Plan If campaign encourages all parents to put things in place in case they die before their children grow up. Things like appointing guardians, making a will, and writing letters to be opened on future birthdays. While these can never take away the pain of a parent dying, they can make life that bit easier.  And of course, once they’re in place, families can get on with the important business of enjoying life together.

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No records of families affected by bereavement in UK

  • FOI request reveals that bereaved children are effectively invisible to the Government

  • Life Matters task force introduces a series of recommendations to support those affected by bereavement

17 November 2017: Just seven months after the government cut the benefits available to bereaved UK families, the Life Matters task force reveals that there is no central record of the number of children affected by the bereavement of a parent.

The alarming revelation comes as a result of an FOI request asking for the number of children bereaved of a parent in the UK, to which both the General Register Office and the Department of Work and Pensions stated: “The information is not held by the department.”

This information has been released by the Life Matters task force, which was brought together by comparethemarket.com in April 2017 in response to the significant changes to bereavement benefits. The changes will leave 75% of UK families affected by bereavement worse off financially than they would have been under the old system, with the average working widowed parent losing out on over £12,000.

Today, in response to this new information, the task force is introducing its six recommendations for policymakers on how best to support those affected by bereavement – both emotionally and financially.

The recommendations include:

  • Adapting the information registered at death to include any details on dependent children of both married and unmarried couples;
  • Training all teachers and carers of children on how to manage and support bereaved children;
  • A call for the government to confirm that Personal, Social, Health & Economic Education (PHSE) will become statutory, so that all children can learn about bereavement and grief within a safe, supported and age-appropriate curriculum
  • Introducing a cross-government bereavement strategy, and identifying a government lead for this
  • A call for every organisation to have a bereavement policy
  • A call for the government to open a new consultation into how it can better support bereaved families

Member of the Life Matters task force and author of The Grief Survival Guide, Jeff Brazier, says:

“When the Life Matters task force came together earlier this year, it was because we knew that more needed to be done to support families across the UK who have suffered the bereavement of a parent or loved one.

“These recommendations provide a realistic plan of action through which policymakers can address the issues faced by bereaved families and pave the way for a better future for the next generation affected by the loss of a parent.”

Also released by the Life Matters task force today, is a video featuring a number of children affected by bereavement appealing to their local MP on what more should to be done to help others in their situation.

To view a copy of the video, or review a summary of the recommendations from the Life Matters task force, visit https://www.comparethemarket.com/life-insurance/content/changes-to-bereavement-support/

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact the Life Matters task force press office on:
• lifematterstaskforce@freuds.com
• 0203 003 6710

The above information was sourced from a Freedom of Information request issued to Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) on 7 June 2017. When asked for the number of children under the age of 18 bereaved of a parent in the UK, the DWP responded: “The information is not held by the department.”

The second FOI request was issued to the General Register Office on the 24th July. When asked for the number of children under the age of 18 bereaved of a parent in the UK, the General Register Office responded: “The General Register Office, which is part of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, does not hold the information you requested.”

Life Matters – the task force for bereaved families

Life Matters, the task force for bereaved families, came together in April 2017 in response to the changes to bereavement benefits.

Supported by comparethemarket.com, Life Matters has come together to improve the support available to bereaved families in the UK and to give a voice to the thousands of bereaved families across the UK.

Members of the Life Matters task force include:

  • Georgia Elms, Chairman WAY Widowed & Young
  • Alison Penny, Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network
  • Jeff Brazier, author of The Grief Survival Guide
  • Ben Brooks-Dutton, author of It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy and Life as a Widower blogger
  • Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
  • Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, Founder, Grief Encounter
  • Fergus Crow, Chief Executive, Winston’s Wish
  • Dr Katie Koehler, Child Bereavement UK
  • Brendan Cox, Campaigner and widower of Jo Cox

Key facts about Government changes to bereavement benefits

  • In March, the House of Commons approved the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations 2017 by 292 votes to 236
  • The Widowed Parent’s Allowance – the safety net that parents get thanks to the National Insurance contributions their husband or wife made before they died – was abolished
  • This has been replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment, effective from 6 April 2017:
    • For those with children, the Bereavement Support Payment is a tax-free lump sum of £3,500, followed by a monthly tax-free payment of £350 for 18 months
    • For those without children, the Bereavement Support Payment is a tax-free lump sum of £2,500 and then a monthly tax-free payment of £100 for 18 month
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Childhood bereavement in the General Election

The General Election gives you a chance to raise issues affecting bereaved children, young people and their families with your local candidates, and ask them what they would do to improve support if they were elected.

What can you do?

  • Email or tweet at your candidates asking for their views. You can find your local candidates on the BBC website.
  • Talk to candidates who knock on your door or are out and about in public. Be ready to talk to them about issues that matter to you, and ask how they would make things better for the next generation of widowed parents and their children.
  • Go along a local hustings. These are public meetings for particular constituencies: candidates are invited to talk and respond to questions. You can go along and ask a question. Check your local newspapers, libraries and the internet for listings of hustings in your area.
  • Ask for a meeting. You can ask to meet your local candidates on particular issues of concern to you.

What can you ask?

The Childhood Bereavement Network wants support to be available to all bereaved children and young people, wherever they live and however they have been bereaved.

You could ask your candidates questions such as

  • There is very little information about the number of children bereaved each year in our area. That means it’s difficult to plan services, and hard to get information about support to families. If you are elected, how would you make sure we know how many grieving children there are in our area?
  • Support for children is patchy and many families have to travel long distances, wait a long time, or struggle on their own. What would you do to improve the support that children get in our community?
  • Many adults worry about how to talk to children about a death. How would you make sure that any adult working with children and young people gets training in bereavement awareness, so that they know how they might help a child who is facing bereavement?
  • Bereaved children spend a huge amount of their time in school, and over 70% of primary schools have a recently bereaved child on roll. How would you make sure that schools have flexible and sensitive people and systems, and are ready with support and information when bereavement touches the school?
  • What are your views on the role of the school curriculum in helping children and young people to learn about death and bereavement as part of life?

You may also want to ask questions about the recent changes to bereavement payments for widowed parents and children. You could ask

  • The changes which came in on 6 April will leave 75% newly widowed parents worse off than under the old system. The maximum time over which families will be supported through bereavement benefits is being cut from 20 years to 18 months. 91% of families will be supported for a shorter time. If you are elected, would you support a rethink of the changes, to support those with children for a longer time?
  • Parents who were living with – but not married to – their partner do not get Bereavement Support Payment, even if they had children together. Those children have the same need for support, whether their parents were married or not. Would you consider extending the entitlement to parents who were cohabiting?

 

 

 

 

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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 Mail, Victoria 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.

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Newly widowed parents facing heightened financial pressures, following Government’s bereavement benefit cuts

New research reveals true financial and emotional impact on surviving parents and children

  • 75% of newly widowed parents worse off from 6th April with new Bereavement Support Payments
  • 67% of widowed parents say their employment status was affected when their partner died 
  • 7 in 10 newly widowed parents not financially stable after 18 months
  • New taskforce of leading organisations and individuals launched to seek bereavement support solutions for next generation

6th April 2017: At the stroke of midnight, the Government implemented significant changes to bereavement benefits received by UK families – changes which will mean 75% of all families with children are likely to be worse off financially. The cuts to benefits come into effect as new research reveals that two thirds of widowed parents are not financially prepared for bereavement, with around one in six widowed parents admitting that they had been forced to re-locate or move home as a result of their partner’s death.

Over 91% of newly widowed parents will be supported for a shorter time under the new benefits, even though new research involving members of the charity WAY Widowed & Young, supported by comparethemarket.com, shows that widowed parents already faced very real financial difficulties under the previous system.

Three quarters (75%) of widowed parents who responded to the survey admitted that bereavement had “far more financial costs associated with it” than they expected. Over seven in 10 (72%) also agreed that bereavement had a “serious or negative financial impact” on them and their family.

Under the new scheme, financial support for families who suffer the death of a parent will now receive financial support from the Government for just 18 months, as opposed to up to 20 years under the previous policy. However, once up and running, approximately £100m a year stands to be saved by the Government.

Georgia Elms, chairman of WAY Widowed & Young, says:

18 months is just not long enough. It feels like a kick in the teeth from the Government and just shows that the people who have developed this new bereavement support payment are not considering the long-term needs of the families impacted by a loss.

 “What’s more, the latest bereavement support changes have been positioned by the Government as a move to ‘modernise’ an outdated system, yet unmarried couples with children won’t be entitled to the new benefits.”

Worryingly, cuts have been made in spite of the fact that over six in 10 of the widowed parents polled who received the WPA (Widowed Parent’s Allowance) stated that the contribution of the allowance was ‘very significant’ to their family income.

The significance of the WPA is unsurprising, particularly with so many widowed parents having to change their employment status as a result of their bereavement. In fact, nearly half (49%) of the widowed parents who responded to the survey said they had to reduce their working hours or leave their jobs following their bereavement. Over a quarter (26%) of this group estimated that they forfeited more than 60% of their salary as a result.

Alison Penny, Coordinator of the Childhood Bereavement Network, explains:

The emotional and financial impact of a death in the family doesn’t go away after a matter of months. We know that children’s grief often takes a while to emerge, so it could be two or three years down the line that parents are really needing to reduce their working hours, find additional support, and to be there to support their children’s needs.”

In response to the changes to bereavement benefits and in the absence of longer-term bereavement support from the Government, a group of individuals who have had first-hand experience of bereavement and thought leaders from a number of charity organisations, have been brought together to form a new task force to help those affected by widowhood and bereavement.

The collective has gathered with an ambition to generate ideas and recommendations that can inform the development of a next generation bereavement strategy, focussing on how the nation could better support bereaved parents, partners, and children both financially and emotionally.

Current task force members include:

  • Georgia Elms, Chairman WAY Widowed & Young
  • Alison Penny, Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network
  • Jeff Brazier, author of The Grief Survival Guide 
  • Ben Brooks-Dutton, author of It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy and Life as a Widower blogger
  • Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
  • Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, Founder, Grief Encounter
  • Fergus Crow, Chief Executive, Winston’s Wish

Simon McCulloch, Director at comparethemarket.com, says: 

“Helping families to protect their financial future and the ones they love is a key part of our business, so when we heard about the changes to bereavement benefits for UK parents, we couldn’t just sit by and do nothing, especially when over two thirds of widowed parents readily admit that they weren’t financially prepared for their bereavement. 

“We are incredibly proud to be supporting these inspirational individuals and organisations on their mission to find solutions which could provide much-needed support for families going through the toughest time of their lives.”

The research also revealed that the financial implications resulting from the impact of bereavement extend far beyond the workplace. Over four in 10 (42%) of the parents polled stated that they had to pay for additional childcare as a result, whilst two thirds (66%) of all widowed partners said that they have undergone counselling since suffering a bereavement.

To find out more information on the changes to bereavement benefits and the new task force, visit: https://www.comparethemarket.com/life-insurance/content/changes-to-bereavement-support/

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact the bereavement task force on:

Additional spokesperson comment

Ben Brooks-Dutton, author of It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy and Life as a Widower blogger 

“I think the government really missed a trick with this new legislation. They’ve made massive cuts to the amount of money that widowed parents now receive, however what they could have done with some of those funds is reinvest it to help support bereaved children and widowed parents emotionally in the long term. This would have fit perfectly with the current mental health agenda.”

  

Jeff Brazier, TV Personality and author of The Grief Survival Guide 

“If I look back to when it was 18 months after the boys lost their mum, that was when they were ultimately right in the eye of the storm. They really did not know where to put themselves and I remember feeling particularly helpless. That was the time when I needed support the most – whether it was from my friends, from support groups, or whether it be financial benefits from the government.”

 

Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care

Many bereaved people tell us that the second year after a death can be even harder than the first, because the shock and the numbness has worn off and the reality that this is what life is going to be like without the person you loved really starts to hit home. This is incredibly painful. It is vital that widowed parents receive the support they need to deal with the intense emotional challenges they and their children face immediately after a death and in the years ahead.”

 

Additional research findings from Widowed and Young (WAY)

  • 71% of the parents polled did not feel financially secure after 18 months
  • 67% of parents said their employment status was affected
  • Over a third (36%) had to decrease their working hours or go part time
  • 13% had to leave their jobs their jobs completely
  • 75% of widowed parents agreed that “bereavement had far more financial costs associated with it than I expected”
  • 72% agreed that “losing my partner has had a serious/negative financial impact on me and my family”
  • Two thirds (66%) of widowed parents were not financially prepared for their bereavement
  • 42% of widowed parents had to pay for additional childcare costs
  • 17% (equating to around 1 in 6) of widowed parents had to re-locate or move house as a result of their bereavement

 Key facts about Government changes to bereavement benefits 

  • In March, the House of Commons approved the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations 2017 by 292 votes to 236
  • Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance – the safety net that parents get thanks to the National Insurance contributions their husband or wife made – is being replaced
  • This has been replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment, effective from 6 April 2017:
    • For those with children, the Bereavement Support Payment is a tax-free lump sum of £3,500, followed by a monthly tax-free payment of £350 for 18 months
    • For those without children, the Bereavement Support Payment is a tax-free lump sum of £2,500 and then a monthly tax-free payment of £100 for 18 months

 

 

 


Newly widowed parents facing heightened financial pressures, following Government’s bereavement benefit cuts

 

New research reveals true financial and emotional impact on surviving parents and children

 

  • 75% of newly widowed parents worse off from 6th April with new Bereavement Support Payments
  • 67% of widowed parents say their employment status was affected when their partner died 
  • 7 in 10 newly widowed parents not financially stable after 18 months
  • New taskforce of leading organisations and individuals launched to seek bereavement support solutions for next generation

 

 

6th April 2017: At the stroke of midnight, the Government implemented significant changes to bereavement benefits received by UK families – changes which will mean 75% of all families with children are likely to be worse off financially. The cuts to benefits come into effect as new research reveals that two thirds of widowed parents are not financially prepared for bereavement, with around one in six widowed parents admitting that they had been forced to re-locate or move home as a result of their partner’s death.

 

Over 91% of newly widowed parents will be supported for a shorter time under the new benefits, even though new research involving members of the charity WAY Widowed & Young, supported by comparethemarket.com, shows that widowed parents already faced very real financial difficulties under the previous system.

 

Three quarters (75%) of widowed parents who responded to the survey admitted that bereavement had “far more financial costs associated with it” than they expected. Over seven in 10 (72%) also agreed that bereavement had a “serious or negative financial impact” on them and their family.

 

Under the new scheme, financial support for families who suffer the death of a parent will now receive financial support from the Government for just 18 months, as opposed to up to 20 years under the previous policy. However, once up and running, approximately £100m a year stands to be saved by the Government.

 

Georgia Elms, chairman of WAY Widowed & Young, says: “18 months is just not long enough. It feels like a kick in the teeth from the Government and just shows that the people who have developed this new bereavement support payment are not considering the long-term needs of the families impacted by a loss.

 

“What’s more, the latest bereavement support changes have been positioned by the Government as a move to ‘modernise’ an outdated system, yet unmarried couples with children won’t be entitled to the new benefits.”

 

Worryingly, cuts have been made in spite of the fact that over six in 10 of the widowed parents polled who received the WPA (Widowed Parent’s Allowance) stated that the contribution of the allowance was ‘very significant’ to their family income.

 

The significance of the WPA is unsurprising, particularly with so many widowed parents having to change their employment status as a result of their bereavement. In fact, nearly half (49%) of the widowed parents who responded to the survey said they had to reduce their working hours or leave their jobs following their bereavement. Over a quarter (26%) of this group estimated that they forfeited more than 60% of their salary as a result.

 

Alison Penny, Coordinator of the Childhood Bereavement Network, explains: “The emotional and financial impact of a death in the family doesn’t go away after a matter of months. We know that children’s grief often takes a while to emerge, so it could be two or three years down the line that parents are really needing to reduce their working hours, find additional support, and to be there to support their children’s needs.”

 

In response to the changes to bereavement benefits and in the absence of longer-term bereavement support from the Government, a group of individuals who have had first-hand experience of bereavement and thought leaders from a number of charity organisations, have been brought together to form a new task force to help those affected by widowhood and bereavement.

 

The collective has gathered with an ambition to generate ideas and recommendations that can inform the development of a next generation bereavement strategy, focussing on how the nation could better support bereaved parents, partners, and children both financially and emotionally.

 

Current task force members include:

  • Georgia Elms, Chairman WAY Widowed & Young
  • Alison Penny, Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network
  • Jeff Brazier, author of The Grief Survival Guide 
  • Ben Brooks-Dutton, author of It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy and Life as a Widower blogger
  • Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
  • Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, Founder, Grief Encounter
  • Fergus Crow, Chief Executive, Winston’s Wish
  • Ann Chalmers, Chief Executive, Child Bereavement UK

 

Simon McCulloch, Director at comparethemarket.com, says: “Helping families to protect their financial future and the ones they love is a key part of our business, so when we heard about the changes to bereavement benefits for UK parents, we couldn’t just sit by and do nothing, especially when over two thirds of widowed parents readily admit that they weren’t financially prepared for their bereavement. 

 

“We are incredibly proud to be supporting these inspirational individuals and organisations on their mission to find solutions which could provide much-needed support for families going through the toughest time of their lives.”

 

The research also revealed that the financial implications resulting from the impact of bereavement extend far beyond the workplace. Over four in 10 (42%) of the parents polled stated that they had to pay for additional childcare as a result, whilst two thirds (66%) of all widowed partners said that they have undergone counselling since suffering a bereavement.

 

To find out more information on the changes to bereavement benefits and the new task force, visit: www.comparethemarket.com/life-insurance/content/changes-to-bereavement-benefits/

 

 

ENDS

 

 

Notes to Editors

 

For further information, please contact the bereavement task force on:

 

 

Additional spokesperson comment

 

Ben Brooks-Dutton, author of It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy and Life as a Widower blogger – “I think the government really missed a trick with this new legislation. They’ve made massive cuts to the amount of money that widowed parents now receive, however what they could have done with some of those funds is reinvest it to help support bereaved children and widowed parents emotionally in the long term. This would have fit perfectly with the current mental health agenda.”

  

Jeff Brazier, TV Personality and author of The Grief Survival Guide – “If I look back to when it was 18 months after the boys lost their mum, that was when they were ultimately right in the eye of the storm. They really did not know where to put themselves and I remember feeling particularly helpless. That was the time when I needed support the most – whether it was from my friends, from support groups, or whether it be financial benefits from the government.”

 

Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care – Many bereaved people tell us that the second year after a death can be even harder than the first, because the shock and the numbness has worn off and the reality that this is what life is going to be like without the person you loved really starts to hit home. This is incredibly painful. It is vital that widowed parents receive the support they need to deal with the intense emotional challenges they and their children face immediately after a death and in the years ahead.”

 

Additional research findings from Widowed and Young (WAY)

  • 71% of the parents polled did not feel financially secure after 18 months
  • 67% of parents said their employment status was affected
  • Over a third (36%) had to decrease their working hours or go part time
  • 13% had to leave their jobs their jobs completely
  • 75% of widowed parents agreed that “bereavement had far more financial costs associated with it than I expected”
  • 72% agreed that “losing my partner has had a serious/negative financial impact on me and my family”
  • Two thirds (66%) of widowed parents were not financially prepared for their bereavement
  • 42% of widowed parents had to pay for additional childcare costs
  • 17% (equating to around 1 in 6) of widowed parents had to re-locate or move house as a result of their bereavement

 

 

Key facts about Government changes to bereavement benefits 

  • In March, the House of Commons approved the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations 2017 by 292 votes to 236
  • Bereavement Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance – the safety net that parents get thanks to the National Insurance contributions their husband or wife made – is being replaced
  • This has been replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment, effective from 6 April 2017:
    • For those with children, the Bereavement Support Payment is a tax-free lump sum of £3,500, followed by a monthly tax-free payment of £350 for 18 months

 

For those without children, the Bereavement Support Payment is a tax-free lump sum of £2,500 and then a monthly tax-free payment of £100 for 18 months

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House of Commons approves bereavement benefit cut that will leave 3 out of 4 newly widowed parents worse off

Joint statement from WAY Widowed and Young and Childhood Bereavement Network

  • MPs approve the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations by 292 votes to 236
  • New scheme due to come into force on 6 April 2017
  • 91% newly widowed parents will be supported for a shorter time under new system
  • 75% will be worse off than they would have been under the old system
  • Reforms will undermine parents’ control over decisions about what is best for their grieving children

Yesterday, the House of Commons approved the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations 2017, which will cut support for the next generation of widowed parents. Despite repeated assurances that the reforms are not intended as a cost-saving measure, the Government is pressing ahead with changes that, once up and running, will save £100m a year from support for widowed parents and their grieving children.

Alison Penny, Coordinator of the Childhood Bereavement Network said

The sad truth is that it is the next generation of bereaved children who will bear the brunt of these cuts.

Widowed Parent’s Allowance, the safety net that parents get thanks to the National Insurance contributions their husband or wife made before they died, will be replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment from 6 April 2017. The Government expects around 8,500 parents to begin a new claim over the next 12 months.

Widowed parents and their supporters have written to their MPs and the Prime Minister over 4,000 times to protest against these cuts, on behalf of the next generation of bereaved families, many of whom don’t even know yet that they will be affected. More than 92% of MPs have been contacted by worried constituents. 8-year-old Sam wrote to his MP

I hope this letter encourages you and the Government to change your minds about WPA and help children who do not know their mums or dads are going to die yet. I was devastated when my daddy died and others will be too.

Despite these concerns, the Government is pressing ahead with a policy which will leave 75% of widowed parents and their children worse off in cash terms. That equates to over 6,000 families next year. The average working widowed parent will get around £12,000 less than they would under the current scheme, and the average parent out of work will get around £6,500 less.(1)

Instead of getting support until their youngest child leaves school, widowed parents will now get support for just 18 months. For 91% of parents, that will be a shorter time than they could have claimed under the current system, with the maximum payout period being reduced from 20 years to just 1.5 years. Those on low incomes will then be moved onto Universal Credit, with associated requirements to move into work or increase earnings.

Alison Penny said

The result of this policy will be that widowed parents will have to go back to work or increase their hours before their grieving children are ready. Most parents do an amazing job of getting back to work and building a new life around their children’s needs. The last thing we should be doing is interfering with that by putting them under pressure to find work or face sanctions.

Bereaved children’s mental health is closely related to their surviving parent’s availability and coping. The new scheme is likely to result in greater out-of-work benefit costs and use of other stretched social care and mental health services, and will undermine parents’ control over decisions about what is best for their family.

Although the Government describes the reforms as a modernisation of the system, it has refused repeated calls to extend the benefits to families where the parents lived together but weren’t married. Alison Penny said

We estimate around over 2,000 families with children lose out in this way each year. It simply doesn’t seem fair to deprive some children of financial support based on their parents’ marital status. It seems odd to treat cohabiting partners as a couple for means-tested benefits or tax credits when they are both alive, but then to refuse to recognise the significance of their relationship when one of them dies.

Georgia Elms, Chairman of WAY Widowed and Young said

We are absolutely devastated that the government is forging ahead with these changes to bereavement support payments, totally disregarding the advice of bereavement organisations like WAY Widowed and Young. The government has claimed that this system will be fairer – but there is nothing fair about taking money away from bereaved families who are already suffering so much.

Many newly widowed parents stand to lose thousands of pounds under the new system, which will see bereavement payments for new claimants stop after 18 months rather than continuing for up to 20 years. These payments are made based on your late spouse’s National Insurance contributions – it is, in effect, the pension they never got to claim.

Our members and supporters have written more than 4,000 letters to MPs over the last few weeks to protest against these utterly callous cuts. The government simply has not listened. And the most heartbreaking thing is that these changes will affect a group of people who might not even realise they may one day need this vital support – future generations of bereaved families.

The government also claims that these changes have modernised the system. So why have they failed to recognise that bereavement payments should also be extended to widowed parents who weren’t married or in a civil partnership when their partner died? How is that a system that’s fit for the 21st century?

-ENDS-

(1) 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 in theory they would be worse off under the old or new scheme of bereavement benefits.

For a briefing on this issue, please visit http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/campaigns/fairer-welfare-benefits.aspx

For more information, please contact:

National Children’s Bureau’s media office on 0207 843 6047 or email media@ncb.org.uk . For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.

WAY Widowed and Young press officer media@widowedandyoung.org.uk

About the Childhood Bereavement Network

The Childhood Bereavement Network, based at the National Children’s Bureau, is the coordinating hub for services across the UK that offer direct support to children and young people who have been bereaved of a parent or sibling. Our members find creative and therapeutic ways for children and their families to begin to understand what has happened and to live with and beyond their loss. For more information and a directory of ‘open access’ services, visit www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk

About WAY Widowed and Young

WAY Widowed and Young is the only national charity in the UK for men and women aged 50 or under when their partner died. Founded 20 years ago, WAY now has 2,300 members across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The charity provides peer-to-peer support to young widowed men and women – married or not, with or without children – as they adjust to life after the death of their partner. www.widowedandyoung.org.uk

About the National Children’s Bureau

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues.www.ncb.org.uk

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