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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999

3.Bereavement Benefits

The Government’s reforms

The Government set out its proposals for reforming bereavement benefits in the consultation document A new contract for welfare: SUPPORT IN BEREAVEMENT (Cm 4104). This was published in November 1998.

The consultation paper proposed that:

  • All those currently receiving widows’ benefits would continue to receive them;

  • Both widows and widowers would be entitled to a tax-free lump sum “Bereavement Payment” of £2,000;

  • Widowed parents with dependent children would receive a weekly, taxable, but non means-tested benefit – the “Widowed Parent’s Allowance” – equivalent to and subject to the same entitlement conditions as the current Widowed Mother’s Allowance;

  • Widows and widowers aged 45 and over with no dependent children would receive a weekly, taxable, non means-tested benefit for six months only – the “Bereavement Allowance” – age-related as for the current Widow’s Pension, but with no SERPS component. While the Bill was before Parliament, this six month period was extended to one year;

  • Widows and widowers with children would be guaranteed up to an extra £10 a week through a new disregard of their Widowed Parent’s Allowance when calculating entitlement to income-related benefits;

  • Men and women over 55 at the start of the new arrangements and widowed within the subsequent 5 years would have access to income-related benefits without any job seeking requirements. They would also receive a special premium (worth £14.35 a week at April 1998 rates) to help them maintain their income when their transitional bereavement benefit ended after 6 months.

Following consultation, the Government legislated to make the proposed changes.

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