Today the Government implemented significant changes to bereavement benefits received by UK families – changes which will mean 75% of all families with children are likely to be worse off financially. The cuts to benefits come into effect as new research reveals that two thirds of widowed parents are not financially prepared for bereavement, with around one in six widowed parents admitting that they had been forced to re-locate or move home as a result of their partner’s death.
Over 91% of newly widowed parents will be supported for a shorter time under the new benefits, even though new research involving members of the charity WAY Widowed & Young, supported by comparethemarket.com, shows that widowed parents already faced very real financial difficulties under the previous system.
New research reveals true financial and emotional impact on surviving parents and children.
· 75% of newly widowed parents worse off from 6th April with new Bereavement Support Payments
· 67% of widowed parents say their employment status was affected when their partner died
· 7 in 10 newly widowed parents not financially stable after 18 months
· New taskforce of leading organisations and individuals launched to seek bereavement support solutions for next generation
Three quarters (75%) of widowed parents who responded to the survey admitted that bereavement had “far more financial costs associated with it” than they expected. Over seven in 10 (72%) also agreed that bereavement had a “serious or negative financial impact” on them and their family.
Under the new scheme, families who suffer the death of a parent will now receive financial support from the Government for just 18 months, as opposed to up to 20 years under the previous policy. However, once up and running, approximately £100m a year stands to be saved by the Government.
Georgia Elms, chairman of WAY Widowed & Young, says: “18 months is just not long enough. It feels like a kick in the teeth from the Government and just shows that the people who have developed this new bereavement support payment are not considering the long-term needs of the families impacted by a loss.
“What’s more, the latest bereavement support changes have been positioned by the Government as a move to ‘modernise’ an outdated system, yet unmarried couples with children won’t be entitled to the new benefits.”
Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care – “Many bereaved people tell us that the second year after a death can be even harder than the first, because the shock and the numbness has worn off and the reality that this is what life is going to be like without the person you loved really starts to hit home. This is incredibly painful. It is vital that widowed parents receive the support they need to deal with the intense emotional challenges they and their children face immediately after a death and in the years ahead.”
Worryingly, cuts have been made in spite of the fact that over six in 10 of the widowed parents polled who received the WPA (Widowed Parent’s Allowance) stated that the contribution of the allowance was ‘very significant’ to their family income.
The significance of the WPA is unsurprising, particularly with so many widowed parents having to change their employment status as a result of their bereavement. In fact, nearly half (49%) of the widowed parents who responded to the survey said they had to reduce their working hours or leave their jobs following their bereavement. Over a quarter (26%) of this group estimated that they forfeited more than 60% of their salary as a result.
Alison Penny, Coordinator of the Childhood Bereavement Network, explains: “The emotional and financial impact of a death in the family doesn't go away after a matter of months. We know that children's grief often takes a while to emerge, so it could be two or three years down the line that parents are really needing to reduce their working hours, find additional support, and to be there to support their children's needs.”
In response to the changes to bereavement benefits and in the absence of longer-term bereavement support from the Government, a group of individuals who have had first-hand experience of bereavement and thought leaders from a number of charity organisations, have been brought together to form a new task force to help those affected by widowhood and bereavement.
The collective has gathered with an ambition to generate ideas and recommendations that can inform the development of a next generation bereavement strategy, focussing on how the nation could better support bereaved parents, partners, and children both financially and emotionally.
Current task force members include:
o Georgia Elms, Chairman WAY Widowed & Young
o Alison Penny, Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network
o Jeff Brazier, author of The Grief Survival Guide
o Ben Brooks-Dutton, author of It’s Not Raining, Daddy, It’s Happy and Life as a Widower blogger
o Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
o Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, Founder, Grief Encounter
Simon McCulloch, Director at comparethemarket.com, says: “Helping families to protect their financial future and the ones they love is a key part of our business, so when we heard about the changes to bereavement benefits for UK parents, we couldn’t just sit by and do nothing, especially when over two thirds of widowed parents readily admit that they weren’t financially prepared for their bereavement.
“We are incredibly proud to be supporting these inspirational individuals and organisations on their mission to find solutions which could provide much-needed support for families going through the toughest time of their lives.”
The research also revealed that the financial implications resulting from the impact of bereavement extend far beyond the workplace. Over four in 10 (42%) of the parents polled stated that they had to pay for additional childcare as a result, whilst two thirds (66%) of all widowed partners said that they have undergone counselling since suffering a bereavement.
Read more about the changes