In response to House of Commons, Work and Pensions Committee report 'Support for the bereaved', the Childhood Bereavement Network issued the following statement:
Alison Penny, Coordinator of the Childhood Bereavement Network, said:
"We welcome many of the Committee's recommendations, which would make things that bit easier for families struggling to adjust to the death of a mum or dad. Making unmarried couples eligible to receive bereavement benefits, and simplifying things for those also claiming other benefits, could help more families get back on their feet.
"But more needs to be done to ensure all grieving children are properly supported when their parent dies: the government should revise its plans to drastically shorten bereavement support, and pay it for a minimum of three years. Without these common sense measures, children and parents will be deprived of state support when they need it most.
Eligibility of cohabiting partners
"We agree with the Committee that benefits for widowed parents should be paid to all those with children, whether they were married to their partner or not. We estimate that each year in the UK, over 2,000 families face the double hit of one parent dying, and then not being eligible for bereavement benefits because they weren't married. In life, parents have the same responsibilities towards their children whether they are married or cohabiting - why should it be different in death? Children have the same needs for food, shelter, love and attention, regardless of their parents' marital status - it's unjust to discriminate against them on these grounds.
Duration of bereavement support payment
"Under the government's proposals, from April 2017, 96% of widowed parents will be supported by bereavement benefits for a shorter time than under current arrangements, and the benefit will stop on the first anniversary of the death, already a time of real stress and difficulty. The Committee recommends changing the structure of the new benefit to pay it over 18 months: we would like to see this extended to three years, and have shown that this could be done cost-neutrally. Children's grief continues to emerge over this time, and their surviving parent needs this support to help them to adjust to a new life without their mum or dad.
Interaction with Universal Credit
"The way Widowed Parents' Allowance and Universal Credit are calculated means that low earning widows and widowers will be worse off if they claim both benefits, by up to £12 a week. The government thinks this will affect around 6,000 families. We agree with the Committee that this is unacceptable and would be very simple to resolve, saving thousands of families confusion and stress.
Widowed parents going back to work
"Like the Committee, we are worried about whether Job Centre Plus staff will have the time and skills to make sure that widowed parents can cope with requirements to search for work alongside caring for their grieving children. Making widowed parents search for and return to work is unnecessary and could be counterproductive, increasing stress and disruption to them and their children. Rather than a complex system of 'easements' we think it would be much simpler for families AND for Job Centre Plus staff if those caring for bereaved children simply had these requirements lifted for three years."