Changes in State Support for Bereaved Families

January 2019
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From 6th April 2017 State support to bereaved families changed. The table below summarises these changes. Eligibility depends upon the date of death of the deceased spouse or civil partner.


Death Before 6 April 2017

Death After 6 April 2017

No children


Eligibility, deceased must have paid NI, been under State pension age (SPA) at death.

Must have been married or civil partner at date of death.

Lump sum £2,000,


If survivor over age 45, weekly payment for 52 weeks or until reaches SPA, or remarries or cohabits. Weekly amount based on age of the survivor at date of bereavement.

Age 45 - £35.13 pw

Age 55 + £117.10 pw.

Lump sum £2,500


 £100 per month for 18 months. (backdated for 3 months only).

Children, as above, plus survivor must be eligible to claim child benefit*.

Must have been married or civil partner at date of death.

The deceased must have been parent*1 of the child.

Lump sum £2,000.

Weekly payment £117.10 made until youngest child ceases to qualify for child benefit, also payable to pregnant widows.

Lump sum £3,500

£350 per month for 18 months (backdated for 3 months only).

Cohabitants, divorcees, prisoners.

No payment

No payment


The regular payments under the old system were taxable. They are tax free under the new regime.


Younger widows/ers without children, or whose children are grown up, have benefitted from this change. In addition to a higher lump sum, they also receive up to £1,800 which the under 45s did not get before.


Older widows/ers not eligible for child benefit. Under the old basis, for example, a 55-year-old survivor would have got £2,000 plus £117.10 per week payable until state pension age, so potentially up to 10 years at £6,089 per year. The maximum they would now get would be £1,800.

Biggest Losers

The parents of younger children are the most disadvantaged by the changes. They will now get a larger lump sum, £3,500 compared to £2,000 but the payment of £350 per month for 18 months only. This is a lot less than the £117.10 per week until the child leaves school which for all, but children with two years or less in education, means less financial support. They may qualify for other benefits, but 18 months of the new benefit is equivalent to just over 1 year’s payment of the old benefit. The maximum payment under the new scheme is £9,800.  

All Time losers

Cohabiting couples, with or without children, do not qualify for these benefits. That was the case under the pre 2017 system and remains so. However, last year a bereaved cohabitant in Northern Ireland was successful in having her claim for widowed parents allowance confirmed by the courts for the 4 children of her deceased partner. The extent to which this case has wider application remains to be seen (McLaughlin case).

Cohabiting couples also receive no inheritance tax exemption on assets inherited from the deceased, if the estate exceeds £325,000 inheritance tax at 40% is payable on the balance.

Inconsistency in Government Policy

Cohabitants who are parents point out the unfairness of the system. It takes a partner’s income into account, when assessing child benefit eligibility (those who earn over £60,000 lose it), even when the partner is not the parent of the child. Yet if that partner dies, there is no bereavement support payment, even when they are the parent of bereaved children.

When the Government introduced the changes to State Bereavement Benefits, it defended them on the basis that more support is needed by families in the immediate aftermath of bereavement. The DWP claimed the increase in the lump sum and regular payments achieved this and justified the shorter period over which they are paid. However other changes in policy from April 2019 see probate fees increase for estates over £300,000, so that bereaved families will pay more to gain legal title to the deceased’s assets. See The Cost of Dying.

Making personal provision for the untimely death of a partner is essential for most families. The benefits payable from the State are simply a temporary safety net. A review of existing life and health insurances and an action plan to fill any gaps may be advisable.

Kay Ingram
Director of Public Policy, LEBC

Please remember, no news or research item is a recommendation or advice to buy. LEBC Group Ltd is not responsible for accuracy and may not share the author’s views. If you are unsure of the suitability of any investment or product for your circumstances please contact an adviser. All information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation, are subject to change. Taxation advice is not regulated by the FCA.

*For the purpose of this benefit the high earners child benefit restrictions are ignored.

*1 Includes biological and adoptive parents.  

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