Bereavement support payments (BSPs) are being extended to cover cohabitees with dependent children – rather than just spouses.

The sum of almost £10,000 will benefit unmarried parents going forward, and will retrospectively apply to many unmarried parents who were bereaved between 2018 and now, following a vote in the House of Commons. However – eligible parents will only have 12 months to make retrospective claims once the change is in place.

This comes after we recently found thousands of people have been missing out on these payments, due to strict deadlines and lack of awareness. 

Read on to find out what the bereavement support payment is and how it works, and why it’s been overhauled to cover more families.

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How the bereavement support payment works

BSP was introduced in 2017, and offers financial help to spouses and civil partners after the death of their partner. To be eligible, the surviving partner must be under state pension age. 

In addition, the deceased partner must have paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year since 6 April 1975, or died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by their work.

How to apply for the bereavement support payment

BSP claims must be made within three months of the death to get the full amount. You can claim up to 21 months afterwards, but the monthly payments will diminish.

Claimants can also get a one-off lump sum of £2,500 (£3,500 if you get child benefit), and up to 18 monthly payments of £100 (£350 for child benefit recipients). 

The total sum of the payments is £9,800. This figure hasn’t risen since it was introduced in April 2017, meaning the value of the payment has fallen by 18.7% in real terms, according to figures from the Childhood Bereavement Network.

Find out more about bereavement benefits

Why bereavement support payment has been extended to more families

In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of unmarried partners with dependent children from BSP was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

The government then changed the law in October 2022, with eligibility for BSP backdated to 30 August 2018. 

In addition, a Remedial Order was debated on 24 January 2023 in the House of Commons regarding the update to BSP. This is an order made by a minister under the Human Rights Act to amend legislation that has been found incompatible with the ECHR.

A further vote then took place to enact the order by MPs, at which time they approved the Bereavement Benefits Remedial Order 2022. This extends the bereavement support payment to cohabiting couples with children, and brings retrospective payments to those previously denied the benefits since 30 August 2018. 

The Childhood Bereavement Network told Which? it expects the scheme to open to the previously excluded groups ‘in the coming weeks’. It estimates there are 21,000 families who have missed out on BSP, owed up to £9,800 each.

Once this has happened, eligible families will have a 12-month window to make a claim for the amount they are entitled to.

    Thousands missing out on payments

    It’s not just unmarried parents who’ve been missing out on BSP – those who have been eligible to claim since the payment first launched are also missing out.

    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has estimated that, as of 2018, around 84% of people eligible for BSP claimed it. However, the DWP admits this is a rough estimate, formed by looking at the number of married people who died while under the state pension age, and comparing it to the number of claims for BSP. 

    In a recent Which? investigation, people we spoke to had missed out on hundreds of pounds in BSP payments, due to lack of awareness and strict rules around the timings for claiming the full amount. 

    How can you claim BSP?

    The process of claiming BSP is straightforward. You can go to the government website to apply online – or find details about how to apply over the phone or by post. 

    You’ll need to have some information to hand – including your National Insurance number, your partner’s National Insurance number, the date your partner died, and your bank or building society account details for the payments to be sent to.

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