New recipients of bereavement aid will receive more monetary support in the year after their spouse dies to help relieve the immediate financial strain following the loss of a loved one. However, under the new rules that aim to bring widowed people back on their feet and into the labour market more quickly, families could lose thousands of pounds in long term benefits.
The Welfare Reform Minister, Lord Freud, is changing the bereavement support system, shifting the focus from long term to short term support, to encourage widows to go back to work and become less reliant on Government aid.
Whilst they benefit from increased financial support in the first year after the death in the family, widowed parents will no longer be entitled to annual aid of some £4,000 for the time they are raising their children, which means they could lose up to £80,000 in support over a maximum period of 20 years.
Under the plans, widows with children will receive £9,800 in the first year after their spouse dies, while their childless counterparts will be entitled to £4,300 in the first year. Widowed parents in employment will gain £4,200 in the first year but will lose £44,000 over the next decade, whilst jobless widowed parents will be £5,600 better off in the first year but will lose out on £32,500 over the next ten years. This means widowed parents with jobs will lose more in the long run.
According to the minister, the changes are intended to dissuade widows from becoming dependant on benefits and help them to readjust and reintegrate into their work and social life after someone close to them has passed away.
Under the existing support system, over 40,000 Brits claim bereavement benefits every year after losing a spouse. Those who have lost a wife, husband or civil partner are entitled to a one-off lump sum of £2,000. Widowed parents are currently entitled to monthly state aid until their children become adults. Widowed people over 45 but below pension age who have no children can also claim monthly support for up to 12 months.