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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Chancellor fails to halt bereavement benefit cut that will leave 3 out of 4 widowed parents worse off

Joint statement from WAY Widowed and Young and Childhood Bereavement Network

  • Chancellor ignores opportunity to pause cut in benefits for widowed parents
  • New scheme due to come into force on 6 April 2017
  • 91% widowed parents will be supported for a shorter time under proposed new system
  • Reforms will undermine parents’ control over decisions about what is best for their grieving children

Today’s Budget did not include a widely hoped-for pause in the introduction of drastic cuts in support for 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, is due to be replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment from 6 April 2017.

Over 3,200 widowed parents and their supporters have written to their MPs to protest against these cuts, on behalf of the next generation of bereaved families who don’t even know yet that they will be affected.

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 planning to press ahead with a policy which will leave 75% of widowed parents and their children worse off in cash terms.

Over 90% of MPs have been contacted by worried constituents, and they have one last chance to respond to those concerns by voting down these cuts when they return to the House of Commons.

If the changes go through, 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.

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 think 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 incredibly disappointed and dismayed that the government is still forging ahead with significant changes to bereavement support payments from April, against the advice of bereavement organisations like WAY Widowed and Young and the Childhood Bereavement Network.

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, their pension.

These changes are deeply unfair and they will leave 75% of bereaved families worse off at a time when they are already incredibly vulnerable.

We are also extremely disappointed that the government has 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.

The Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed and Young urge MPs to vote against these changes when the Bereavement Support Payment Regulations 2017 come before the House of Commons.

-ENDS-

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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Government cutting the time widowed parents given support

  • Government shortening support for 91% of parents widowed after April
  • 75% of widowed parents will be worse off under the new scheme
  • Link with inflation will be broken
  • Cohabiting couples still won’t get support for their grieving children
  • Charities propose cost-neutral alternative to support bereaved families for longer

Joint statement by the Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young

Widowed Parent’s Allowance, the safety net that parents get thanks to the National Insurance contributions their husband or wife made before they died, is being replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment from 6 April 2017.

Support is being shortened

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.

Alison Penny of the Childhood Bereavement Network said

Latest DWP figures show 75% of bereaved families will be worse off in cash terms under the new scheme, with the average working widowed parent losing out on over £12,000. That’s a huge difference to families struggling to cope after a parent dies[1].

The government listened to concerns from parents who have already been widowed, and revised its original plan to stop the benefit after just one year. But extending the payments to 18 months doesn’t go far enough.

Alison Penny of the Childhood Bereavement Network said:

We know that children’s grief often takes a while to emerge, and they often face new challenges two or three years down the line. It’s vital that their mum or dad – who are coping with their own grief too – have the flexibility to be available to their children.

Charities have developed cost-neutral proposals that would allow the payments to be spread over three years instead, giving families that bit longer to help their children get back on their feet.

The government plans to move widowed parents with longer term income support needs onto Universal Credit, but that means that after just six months, depending on the age of their youngest child, parents will be having to look for or take up work. This will put them under unnecessary pressure, increasing their stress at a time when they need to prioritise their grieving children.

Alison Penny said:

The Government claims that the current system could act as a trap preventing people from moving on with their lives, but we simply haven’t seen evidence for this. DWP’s own research with parents bereaved 12-18 months earlier found that the majority said the benefits didn’t have a significant impact on them returning to or taking up work. Most bereaved partners stay in or take up work within 18 months of bereavement, and the last thing we should be doing is interfering with that by putting them under pressure to find work or face sanctions.

Support will get less over time

The current Widowed Parent’s Allowance is up-rated each year in line with inflation, but this link is being broken with the new Bereavement Support Payment. Alison Penny said

Over time, Bereavement Support Payment will be worth less to families, while childcare and other costs of bringing up children are likely to rise. Over the last 30 years, funeral costs have risen far higher than inflation. Bereavement Support Payment will stretch less and less far to cover families’ needs after a parent dies.

Children whose parents weren’t married won’t get the support

Parents who lived with but weren’t married to their partner won’t get the new benefit, even if they had lived together for many years and had children together. Alison Penny said

We think 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, Chair of WAY Widowed and Young, said

We are really disappointed that the government is forging ahead with significant changes to bereavement support payments from April, against the advice of bereavement organisations like WAY Widowed and Young.

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, their pension.

We are also incredibly disappointed that the government has 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.

While we are pleased to see that widows and widowers without children will now be entitled to bereavement support for up to 18 months, WAY will continue to campaign against the other changes, which will have a significant impact for parents who have the misfortune to be widowed after 6 April 2017.

It’s not all bad news, however: the new Bereavement Support Payment will be tax free and disregarded from calculating other benefits and the benefits cap. The poorest out-of-work families with children will see an increase in the cash value of their awards. However, the majority of the lowest earning widowed parents will be worse off. 75% of all families with children will be worse off (88% of those in work, 57% of those out of work).

-ENDS-

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

[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.

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Bereavement benefits should support unmarried couples too – reaction to today’s Court of Appeal ruling

Joint statement by the Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young

The Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young are deeply disappointed by today’s Court of Appeal judgement in Belfast that a mother bringing up children alone after her partner’s death should not get bereavement benefits.

The judgement overturned a previous ruling in the High Court that the mother’s ineligibility for Widowed Parent’s Allowance discriminated against her on the grounds of her marital status.

Alison Penny, the Childhood Bereavement Network’s Coordinator, said:

‘In life, parents have the same responsibilities towards their children whether they are married or cohabiting – why should it be different in death? At the moment, around one in five parents with children don’t get support if their long term partner dies, because they were living together but not married. Losing out on these vital payments, that could be worth around £46 per week to low income families, undermines their welfare just when they need help the most. Children have the same needs for food, shelter, love and attention, regardless of their parents’ marital status – and we are very disappointed that today’s ruling continues this discrimination’.

‘Many couples don’t realise they wouldn’t be eligible, wrongly believing that living together brings the same legal benefits as if they were married. This ruling could have brought bereavement benefits into line with other parts of the benefits and tax systems so that they recognise unmarried couples, providing much needed support to thousands of families coming to terms with the death of one of the parents.’

Georgia Elms, Chairman, WAY Widowed and Young

Georgia Elms lost her husband Jon to meningitis in 2006 when she was just 36 years old. She found out the next day that she was pregnant with her second child. She has been Chairman of WAY Widowed and Young for nearly five years.

“Since my husband died in 2006, I’ve been receiving Widowed Parents’ Allowance to help support my two daughters in the absence of my husband Jon’s income. This is based on the National Insurance contributions Jon paid as a marketing consultant. I am entitled to this support until my youngest daughter leaves full-time education. This money has been put towards the extra childcare costs since Jon died as well as basic living costs. These regular payments have been a lifeline to me and many other members of WAY Widowed and Young. It is so unfair that people who weren’t married at the time of their partner’s death are not entitled to receive this necessary help at a time when they need it most. That’s why WAY Widowed and Young has been campaigning alongside other charities with the Childhood Bereavement Network to change this unfair policy.”

-ENDS-

For a briefing on this issue, please visit http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/media/53878/Bereavement-benefits-and-cohabiting-parents-June-2016.pdf

For more information, please contact:

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 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. For more information visit www.ncb.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 in 1997, WAY now has almost 2,000 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. Find out more at www.widowedandyoung.org.uk

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