Universal Credit: Jonathan Reynolds on Labour’s policy
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Recent changes to the benefit system mean thousands of unmarried parents will now be entitled to bereavement benefits once their partner passess away thanks to a crucial rule change. However, concerns have been raised that unmarried parents are still worse off than their married counterparts and the new changes do not go far enough to remedying the situation. Previously, the surviving parent could only claim bereavement benefit payments if they were married or in a civil partnership at the time of their significant other’s death.
However, under the recently imposed rules, all surviving parents are now entitled to access bereavement benefits as long as they were living with their partner at the time of their death and have children together.
These new rules will apply retrospectively from August 30, 2018, which is the month the Supreme Court ordered the Government to treat unmarried couples equally to married ones.
Any backdated payments for claimants will be made in the form of a lump sum, which will be paid directly to them.
Currently, bereavement support payments are made up on an initial large sum which is paid directly to claimants, and up to 18 subsequent monthly payments thereafter, which can come to a total upwards of £7,000.
For the higher rate, the first payment is £3,500 for claimants, followed by monthly payments of £350 for 18 months.
In comparison, the lower of bereavement benefit is made up of an initial payment of £2,500 and 18 monthly payments of £100.
Despite this change, some organisations are issuing their disapproval of the Government choosing the date of the court ruling rather than the date at which payments were introduced, which was back in 2017.
With this change, unmarried parents will be unable to claim support after their partner’s death if they passed away prior to this set court date.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is one of the organisations taking the Government to task over this particular issue.
Carla Clarke, head of strategic litigation at CPAG, issued praise for what changes have been made but emphasised why they do not not go far enough in helping unmarried Britons.
He said: “The Government’s proposals are welcome in as far as they go, but they would short-change some families who have already lost a parent and will receive only a fraction of the support they would have been entitled to had the marriage requirement not been in place at the time of the late parent’s death.”
If claimants are receiving child benefit payments, or if they are entitled to it, they will receive the higher rate.
Claimants who do not either receive or are entitled to child benefit will receive the lower rate of support payments.
A loophole to getting bereavement benefits while not getting child benefit is if claimants are or were pregnant at the time of their partner’s death.
In order to receive any of the potential £7,000 cash boost, claimants must put forward their application to receive the benefit within three months of their partner’s death to get the full amount.
If they fail to do this and decide to claim later, it is more likely they will receive fewer monthly payments.
All payments of bereavement support are paid directly into the bank or building society accounts of claimants.
Receiving any bereavement support will not impact an individual’s benefits for a year after your first payment. After a year, any money left from a first payment could affect the amount someone gets if they renew or make a claim for another benefit.
Claimants should notify their nearest benefits office when starting the application for bereavement benefits.
The best way to start an application is either over the phone with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or by filling out a paper form.
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