Cohabiting parents with dependent children who need support following the death of a partner can apply for bereavement benefits from Thursday.
The UK Government has extended the eligibility criteria for Bereavement Support Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance, helping more grieving parents to access the support.
The benefits are designed to help parents with the financial impact of losing a partner.
Previously support was only available to bereaved parents who were married or in a civil partnership.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has opened a 12-month application window for bereaved parents who have dependent children and whose partner died before February 9 2023.
The bereavement benefit and amount they are entitled to will depend on when they lost their partner.
To qualify, claimants must have met the eligibility criteria for either Bereavement Support Payment or Widowed Parent’s Allowance on or after August 30 2018.
Those whose partner died before April 6 2017 might be able to receive the legacy benefit Widowed Parent’s Allowance, should they be found to have been eligible for this on August 30 2018.
A surviving parent who lost their partner on or after April 6 2017 may be eligible for its replacement, Bereavement Support Payment, should they have been qualified for this on August 30 2018.
DWP Minister Viscount Younger of Leckie said: “Losing a partner is tragic and this change will mean more bereaved parents can access this support through a profoundly difficult time for them and their children.”
Social Mobility, Youth and Progression Minister Mims Davies said: “We have made this important change to help thousands more grieving parents access the financial support they need and deserve.
“We know so many lone parents are doing their best to support their families through such a difficult time and our bereavement benefits offer a lifeline to help them adjust to the impact of this.
“I would urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to make an application, as, crucially, some bereaved parents will also be able to receive backdated payments to ensure they don’t miss out.”
Alison Penny, director of the Childhood Bereavement Network, said: “We are relieved that, at last, cohabiting families who have suffered the devastating loss of their mum or dad will now have the same access to bereavement benefits as married and civil partnered families.
“These benefits are a lifeline for grieving families, helping parents and carers put their children’s needs first as they begin to adjust to a life that has changed forever.
“Our charity estimates that thousands of families, some bereaved as far back as 2001, may be in line for a retrospective payment of the benefits they have missed out on, paid from August 2018.
“The 12-month window for claiming a retrospective payment will help Government and support organisations to raise awareness, and give families time to understand the effect that a back payment could have on their wider tax and social security entitlements.”
Claims for Bereavement Support Payment can be made online via gov.uk, over the phone or through a paper application form.
Widowed Parent’s Allowance claims will be processed by paper. Paper applications can be downloaded from gov.uk or requested over the Bereavement Service helpline.
More details on the full eligibility criteria and claims process will be available on gov.uk/bereavement-support-payment from Thursday.
The law change comes into effect following Parliament’s approval of the Bereavement Benefits (Remedial) Order 2023.
Claire Hall, a solicitor at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “It is essential that high-quality information is provided about how to claim and what impact back payments may have on families’ wider financial position.
“Government must be particularly clear in communications to those whose back payments of Widowed Parent’s Allowance will have implications for their tax, tax credits and social security benefits. If in doubt, people should seek advice to understand how it applies in their individual circumstances before claiming.”
Georgia Elms, campaign ambassador for charity WAY Widowed and Young, said: “We are sad that it has taken so long to get to this point. Many of the families who will now be eligible for back payments have endured years of financial hardship and lack of recognition as they waited for these changes.”