Many people who lose their partner suffer financially as well as emotionally, and may not be aware of bereavement benefits that could help ease some of their money worries.

There are plenty of aspects of the state benefit system that are complicated and bereavement benefits are no exception, but it’s important to try to claim within the time limits to avoid missing out on any financial support you might be entitled to.

In this article, we cover what bereavement benefits are, who is eligible, and how to make a claim. 

What financial support is available?

Bereavement Support Payment has replaced most existing bereavement benefits including Bereavement Allowance (previously Widow’s Pension) and Bereavement Payment.

It is available to those in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland whose spouse or civil partner has died in the last 21 months. It can also be claimed by parents with dependent children who were not married to their partner, but cohabited with them.

Bereavement Support Payment consists of a large initial payment, followed by up to 18 monthly instalments. There are two rates available:

First Payment Monthly Payment
Higher rate £3,500 £350
Lower rate £2,500 £100

If you already receive Child Benefit – or are entitled to it – you’ll receive the higher rate. If you don’t receive Child Benefit, you’ll get the lower rate, unless you were pregnant at the time your spouse or partner died.

To receive the full amount you’re entitled to, you need to claim within three months of your partner’s death. You can claim up to 21 months after their death, but you’ll get fewer monthly payments the later you leave it.

Who is eligible for Bereavement Support Payment?

You could be eligible for Bereavement Support Payment if your partner died in the past 21 months and either:

  • Died as the result of an accident or disease caused by work. 
  • Paid National Insurance contributions for a minimum of 25 weeks within one tax year since 6 April 1975. 

At the time of their death, they must have been under State Pension age and been living in the UK or a country that also provides bereavement benefits.

Other factors such as your income, how much savings you have, or whether you’re working, don’t affect your eligibility for Bereavement Support Payment.

If you reach State Pension age within 18 months of your partner’s death, you may get fewer monthly payments.

What if my partner died more than 21 months ago?

If it’s been over 21 months since your partner’s death, you usually cannot get any bereavement benefit payments.

However, in light of new eligibility rules that allow unmarried parents who have lost a cohabiting partner to apply for the benefit as well, the DWP has announced a special 12-month window during which bereaved parents with dependent children can apply for the benefit even if their partner died over 21 months ago.

The type of benefit and amount they receive will depend on when they lost their partner. Those who lost their partner before 6 April 2017 may be able to receive the legacy benefit Widowed Parent’s Support Allowance (more about this below), while those who lost their partner after this date may be eligible for the Bereavement Support Payment.

You may also be able to claim Widowed Parent’s Support Allowance if your husband, wife, or civil partner died prior to 6 April 2017 and the cause of death has only just been confirmed.

You can apply for backdated payments any time before 9 November 2024. However, you may get fewer monthly payments the later you claim, and the maximum you’ll be able to claim is 9 monthly payments of £350.

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Can I claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance?

Widowed Parent’s Allowance has now been replaced by the Bereavement Support Payment, but if you’re already claiming it, you’ll continue to receive it until you’re no longer eligible.

You’ll only be able to make a new claim for Widowed Parent’s Allowance if your partner died before 6 April 2017. To qualify, you and your partner must have either been married or in a civil partnership, or living together as though you were married or in a civil partnership.

The amount of Widowed Parent’s Allowance you get is based on how much your late spouse or partner paid in National Insurance contributions. The maximum you can receive is £139.10 in the 2023/24 tax year.

You’ll receive Widowed Parent’s Allowance until you either stop being entitled to Child Benefit, or you reach State Pension age. Other benefits may be affected if you receive Widowed Parent’s Allowance, so you must report it to your benefits office.

Will Bereavement Support Payment affect the other benefits I’m on?

Bereavement Support Payment won’t affect any benefits you receive for one year after your first payment. However, if after a year, you have money left over from your first payment, then this could affect the amount you’ll receive if you decide to renew or claim a different kind of benefit.

When you start receiving Bereavement Support Payment, it’s also important that you tell your benefits office (for example, your local Jobcentre plus) that you’re receiving it.

How can I claim bereavement benefits?

The quickest way to apply for Bereavement Support Payment is by phone on 0800 151 2012. Or if you prefer, you can also apply using a paper form.

You’ll be able to find the relevant addresses on the website. Here you’ll also find information about how to claim if you’re abroad.

If you live in Northern Ireland, the process is slightly different, which you can find out more about Bereavement Support Payment | nidirect.

Final thoughts…

Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things we have to deal with in life and it can leave us feeling lost and unsure where to turn.

But while you’re processing the emotional impact of a loved one’s passing, we know that money worries are one of the last things you’ll want to be thinking about. This is where bereavement benefits can help, potentially relieving some of the financial stress you might be under at a difficult time.

If you need further advice on what to do when you’ve lost a loved one, our article What to do when someone dies might help.

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