Bereavement Support Payment Contents

1Bereavement Support Payment

1.Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) is the Government’s main bereavement benefit. It was introduced on 6 April 2017. BSP replaces three previous bereavement benefits—Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance, and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.2 The table below sets out the main differences between Bereavement Support Payment and legacy bereavement benefits:

Table 1: Main differences between legacy bereavement benefits and Bereavement Support Payment

Legacy bereavement benefits

Bereavement Support Payment

Components

Bereavement Payment (BP) Bereavement Allowance (BA) Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA)

Bereavement Support Payment (BSP)

Payment period

BP–one off lump sum

BA–52 weeks

WPA–Until Child Benefit (CHB) ceases

Up to 18 months

Rate of payment

BP–lump sum £2,000

BA–depends on age when bereaved and the deceased person’s NI record. Maximum amounts £34.11 a week at age 45 to £113.70 a week for those aged 55 or over

WPA–up to £108.30 a week, depending on deceased’s NI record

£3,500 initial payment + £350 per month for up to 18 months for those with dependent children

£2,500 initial payment + £100 per month for up to 18 months for those without children

Widowed parents

WPA ceases once CHB award ceases

No change of rate if child is no longer included in CHB award

Have to be married/in

civil partnership

Yes

Yes

Age requirements

BA–no entitlement if under age 45 and age related payment from 45 to State Pension Age (SPA)

WPA–No entitlement once claimant reaches SPA

BP–No entitlement if claimant is over SPA and the late spouse was entitled to a Category A State pension at date of death

No–Marrying, cohabiting or entering a civil partnership does not affect payments.

Contribution conditions

Complex—range of contribution conditions apply to existing benefits

Simplified—only 1 contribution condition will apply to BSP

Taxable

Yes, except for BP

No, all payments are tax-free

Affects payment levels or eligibility for income-related benefits such as Universal Credit

Yes

No

Annual increases awarded

Yes

The rates of BSP may be subject to periodic review however once the award is made the amount will remain the same until the award ceases

Affected by remarriage/repartnering/living with another

Yes—payments cease

No

Source: House of Commons Library, Bereavement Support Payment, CBP-7887

2.Bereavement Support Payment is paid to a surviving spouse or civil partner. It is made up of a lump sum payment followed by up to 18 monthly payments. BSP has two rates, depending on whether the surviving spouse or civil partner is eligible for child benefit. If they are, they are entitled to the higher rate; if not, they are entitled only to the lower rate. The current rates of BSP are set out in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Rates of Bereavement Support Payment

Initial lump sum

Monthly payments

Higher rate

£3,500

£350

Lower rate

£2,500

£100

Source: GOV.UK: Bereavement Support Payment

Development of Bereavement Support Payment

3.Bereavement Support Payment is intended to help people meet the immediate additional financial costs faced following a bereavement. Unlike benefits such as Universal Credit, it is not intended as a longer-term replacement for income.3

4.The Government set out its objectives for Bereavement Support Payment in its 2011 consultation paper, Bereavement Benefit for the 21st Century.4 These objectives were:

a)to simplify the payment and contribution conditions;

b)to make bereavement benefits more accessible; and

c)for the system to be fair to both the claimant and the taxpayer whilst promoting self-dependency.5

5.Our predecessor Committee published its report on bereavement benefits, Support for the bereaved, in 2016. At that time, Bereavement Support Payment was being designed but had not yet been implemented. Our predecessor Committee welcomed the Government’s proposals. However, it recommended that the Department, on a cost-neutral basis, reduce the initial lump sum payment and monthly instalment rates set out in its consultation so that the monthly payments would be paid over 18 months, rather than 12.6 The Government accepted this recommendation. Our predecessor Committee also recommended that Bereavement Support Payment be paid to bereaved cohabitees with dependent children. The Government rejected this recommendation.7

Box 1: Our predecessor Committee’s conclusions and recommendations on Bereavement Support Payment in Support for the bereaved

We broadly welcome the Government’s proposed reforms to bereavement benefits. Many of the changes are overdue. There are three areas, however, that merit further consideration by the Government: the treatment of bereaved cohabitees with children, the length of the new BSP and interactions with Universal Credit. (Paragraph 73)

Bereaved parents face increased expenses because of their responsibility to their children. The needs of bereaved children of cohabiting parents are no different to those whose parents were married or in a civil partnership. Penalising children on the grounds of the marital status of their parents is unjust. (Paragraph 83)

The cost of extending the Bereavement Support Payment to cohabitees with dependent children is low, relative to the overall cost of the system. The reforms are also projected to deliver a medium-term saving to the Department, and the cost to HMRC is uncertain. The reform was not designed to save money, but savings are predicted to increase. Following a recent case in Northern Ireland, the DWP may be forced to reverse its position and we urge the Department to take positive action now rather than wait for a challenge in the courts. We recommend that the Bereavement Support Payment be extended to cohabiting couples with dependent children, using medium-term savings from the bereavement benefits reform. (Paragraph 87)

The financial impact of bereavement can, and often will, last much longer than one year or 18 months. Stopping after a year is particularly problematic however, as it is the anniversary of the death. We are also unconvinced by the argument that a longer period of monthly payments would be administratively more complex and expensive. We recommend that the Department adopt a cost-neutral method of extending the BSP to 18 months through a reduction in the lump-sum payment. The Department should consider extending the monthly payments further, as part of its forthcoming review. (Paragraph 95)

Source: Work and Pensions Committee, Support for the bereaved, Ninth Report of Session 2015–16 (HC 551)

Our inquiry

6.We launched our inquiry two years after Bereavement Support Payment was first introduced. We wanted to find out how well BSP was working for claimants, and how it could be improved. We are very grateful to all the individuals and organisations who gave evidence to the inquiry. We are particularly grateful to Joana Crookall, Kathryn Ford, Nikki Haxton-Jones, Joana Niemeyer, Fiona Shakesby, and Lalena Walkley, who shared with us their personal experiences after the death of their partners.


2 As of February 2019, there are 32,381 people claiming Widowed Parent’s Allowance, receiving £112.39 per week on average (DWP, Stat-Xplore). Some people may still be eligible for Bereavement Payment, but DWP does not publish any Official Statistics on how many people receive Bereavement Payment. There are no longer any active claims of Bereavement Allowance.

3 Q120; Q129; Department for Work and Pensions (SFB0006)

5 Department for Work and Pensions (SFB0006)

6 Work and Pensions Committee, Support for the bereaved, Ninth Report of Session 2015–16 (HC 551), para 95

7 Work and Pensions Committee, Support for the bereaved, Ninth Report of Session 2015–16 (HC 551), para 87; Work and Pensions Committee, Support for the bereaved: Government Response to the Committee’s Ninth Report of Session 2015–16, Second Special Report of Session 2016–16 (HC 230)




Published: 22 October 2019