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Good grief: not a change for the better

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I was widowed nearly eight years ago when our son was just three. Yes, tragic, I know. I’m over it now – time, therapy and just plain getting on with it, really. When my husband died I got a Bereavement Payment from the government – £2,000. Sensibly it went towards the funeral. But what was more useful than that was that ever since my husband died I have received a payment every four weeks, what’s called the Widowed Parents’ Allowance.

It’s based on my husband’s NI contributions and I get about £400. It pays my council tax and most of my utility bills. But if you are widowed after April 6 this year and have a child still in education then instead, you’ll get a lump sum of £3,500 and then monthly payments of up to £350 under the new Bereavement Support Payment.

But while my payments will carry on as long as I get child benefit - which could be until my son is 20 -under the new system the regular payments are only made for 18 months (although they are tax free unlike under the old system I’m in). So the new system post 6 April works better if your child is older when your husband or wife dies. But the old system worked better for most.

The Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young says that the changes will shorten support for 91% of parents widowed after April and 75% will be worse off under this scheme. What makes me fume is this quote from the minister for welfare delivery Caroline Nokes who says that the old system “could be unfair, complex and act as a trap preventing people from moving with their lives”. So now there’s a time limit on grief of 18 months.

I’m glad I’m under the old system: a larger lump sum but fewer future payments would have been much worse for me – I would have splurged the lump sum and would miss the monthly payments. Widowhood is frightening enough without having to worry about the sudden change in your income and the worry about bills – and that doesn’t disappear after a year and a half. And the payments are based on my husband’s NI contributions so they aren’t something for nothing.

But I am angry that for any man or woman who finds themselves widowed with small children from now on will have to rely on a far less beneficial system – and woe betide you if you’re not married as you won’t even get the new benefit. You’ll just have to move on...

See www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk and www.widowedandyoung.org.uk for more information. You can also check out our quick guide,: Ten things you need to do when someone dies, here.

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Monday, 17 December 2018