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Bereavement benefits extended to cohabiting couples

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Cohabiting parents with dependent children who need support following the death of their partner can now apply for bereavement benefits.

The government has extended the eligibility criteria for Bereavement Support Payment and Widowed Parent’s Allowance, helping thousands more grieving parents to access this support.

The benefits are designed to help parents with the financial impact of losing a partner. Previously it was only available to eligible bereaved parents who were married or in a civil partnership.

But the law change, which came into effect on 9 February, will ensure more children in bereaved families are equally supported, regardless of their parent’s legal relationship status.

Mims Davies MP, minister for social mobility, youth and progression, 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 MBE, 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.”

Back payments

The DWP has opened a 12-month application window for bereaved parents with dependent children whose partner died before 9 February 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 30 August 2018.

This means those who lost their partner before 6 April 2017 might be able to receive the legacy benefit Widowed Parent’s Allowance, should they be found to have been eligible for this on 30 August 2018.

Similarly, a surviving parent who lost their partner on or after 6 April 2017 may be eligible for its replacement, the Bereavement Support Payment, should they have been qualified for this on 30 August 2018.

“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,” said Penny. “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.”