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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999


Section 55: New allowances for bereaved spouses

This section introduces two new benefits for bereaved spouses – Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Allowance. It does so by inserting four new sections into the Contributions and Benefits Act: sections 36A, 39A, 39B and 39C (the current benefits are defined at sections 37-40). All references below are to sections of the Contributions and Benefits Act.

The inserted section 36A sets out when the new benefits, and when the existing scheme, should apply. It provides that:

  • as a transitional provision, the existing arrangements will continue to apply for all people whose spouses die before “the appointed day” (when the new benefits come into force):

    • If they are women, they will still be able to claim Widowed Mother’s Allowance, Widow’s Pension and Incapacity Benefit (on the basis of their husbands’ contributions), under the current rules. Then, if a widow is aged 45 or over when her Widowed Mother’s Allowance ends, she will still be entitled to receive Widow’s Pension and/or Incapacity Benefit. If she is under 45, she will still be entitled to receive Incapacity Benefit;

    • If they are men, they will still be entitled to Incapacity Benefit on the basis of their wives’ contributions (as provided by the existing section 41), if they meet the qualifying conditions;

    • The one difference is that existing widowed fathers will be entitled to the new Widowed Parent’s Allowance, if they satisfy the qualifying conditions on the appointed day.

  • the two new benefits (defined in the new sections 39A, 39B and 39C) will apply for all people whose spouses die on or after the appointed day. These people will not be entitled to Incapacity Benefit on the basis of their spouses’ contributions.

Widowed Parent’s Allowance

The inserted section 39A provides for the Widowed Parent’s Allowance. It reproduces the rules that currently apply to Widowed Mother’s Allowance (set out in section 37), but extends the new benefit to widowers.

Bereavement Allowance

The inserted section 39B provides for the Bereavement Allowance. Most of the entitlement conditions of Widow’s Pension (in section 38) are retained, but with the following exceptions:

  • the benefit is available for widowers who meet the conditions of entitlement;

  • the benefit is only payable for a maximum period of 52 weeks, beginning with the date of death;

  • no additional pension (State Earnings Related Pension – SERPS) will be paid with the benefit (though note the provisions for SERPS in Retirement Pension for widows and widowers in section 56).

The inserted section 39C provides for the rates at which the two new benefits are payable.

Under subsection (1), the weekly rate of Widowed Parent’s Allowance will be calculated in the same way as for Widowed Mother’s Allowance now.

This means that the inclusion of an additional pension (SERPS) will continue to be made on the basis of existing legislation. The 50% reduction in the value of SERPS from April 2000–which was provided for in the Social Security Act 1986–will remain unchanged (subsection (4)). However, see commentary on section 52.

Subsection (2) makes provision for the weekly rate of a Bereavement Allowance. It is to be paid at a basic rate only with no additional pension.

Subsection (5) preserves for Bereavement Allowance the rules which vary the amount of benefit according to the age of the widow when her husband dies or when her entitlement to Widowed Mother’s Allowance ends.

There is a 7% deduction from the full rate of benefit for each year she is aged under 55 at that date—and, once determined, the amount stays fixed. The same rule applies to all surviving spouses for Bereavement Allowance.

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