Bereavement benefits

Bereavement benefits are available to men and women and are designed to provide fast and direct financial help following bereavement plus longer-term help where the needs of children make self-support difficult.

Women who are already receiving benefits under the Widows Benefit scheme will not be affected provided they continue to qualify under the rules.

Widows and widowers who are not entitled to receive any bereavement benefits may, subject to the normal qualifying conditions, be entitled to income-related benefits in the same way as any other single person.

There are three types of bereavement benefit, which are usually only available to men and women under pension age.

1. Bereavement Payment

This is a one-off, tax-free lump sum payment of £2,000 which is payable immediately to help with costs arising on bereavement. It can be paid in addition to Widowed Parent’s Allowance or Bereavement Allowance.

To qualify

  • The late spouse must have satisfied the National Insurance Contribution condition* (unless they died because of an industrial injury or disease) and either
  • The claimant was under pension age when their spouse died (i.e. under 65 for men, 60 for women)

or

  • The claimant was over pension age, the spouse was not entitled to a Category A retirement pension when he or she died.
  • Claims must be made within 3 months of the spouse’s death*

*In any one tax year before his or her death, your spouse must have actually paid National Insurance Contributions producing an earnings factor of at least 25 times lower than the Lower Earnings Limit.

Claims should be made straight away. There is a general time limit of 3 months for claiming social security benefits. Forms are available from local the Jobcentre Plus or Benefits Agency offices. The form can also be found online at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/advisers/claimforms/bb1_print.pdf

2. Bereavement Allowance

This is a weekly benefit payable to widows and widowers aged 45 or over without dependent children. It is payable for 52 weeks following the date of widowhood. The weekly rate of Bereavement Allowance payable to a widow or widower aged between 45 and 54 is related to their age at the date of entitlement.

To qualify:

  • The claimant must be a widow or widower who was aged 45 or over but under pension age when his/her husband or wife died
  • The claimant must still be under pension age
  • The claimant’s spouse must have paid National Insurance Contributions (NICs) – unless they died because of an industrial injury or disease**
3. Widowed Parents Allowance

This is a weekly benefit payable to widowed parents who satisfy the qualifying conditions.

To qualify:

  • The claimant must be a widow or widower under pension age
  • The claimant is entitled to Child Benefit in respect of at least one child or is pregnant by her late husband

The claimant’s spouse must have paid National Insurance Contributions – unless they died of an industrial injury or disease**

** In order for their husband or wife to be entitled to Bereavement Allowance or Widowed Parent Allowance the deceased person has to have satisfied two contribution conditions

The first contribution condition is that, in any one-tax year, the late spouse should have paid National Insurance Contributions on earnings that were 52 times the lower earnings limit for that year. However if the deceased was in receipt of Incapacity Benefit in the tax year in which they died, or in the previous tax year, then this condition is treated as being satisfied.

The second contribution condition takes account of the length of the deceased’s working life. The length of someone’s working life is calculated from the tax year in which they reached the age of 16 to the tax year prior to the one in which they died. For someone who died at age 26, for example, this would give a working life of approximately 10 years. In order to qualify for the standard basic rate of bereavement benefits the deceased would need to have paid contributions for 90% of their working life. In our example, this would be nine years. However, a modified rate of bereavement benefits may be payable as long as they have satisfied the first condition and have paid contributions for more than 25% of their working life.

In recognition that some deceased husbands or wives were unable to work because they were caring for their family, there is flexibility called Home Responsibility Protection (HRP). This can be awarded for years in which people did not work due to family caring responsibilities and reduces the number of years needed for eligibility.