MP 'appalled' at widow fund axing

Reporter: Iram Ramzan
Date published: 14 February 2017

OLDHAM East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has criticised the Government's plans to cut the widowed parent's allowance from April this year.

Mrs Abrahams, who is also shadow work and pension secretary, made her comments on the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme alongside representatives from the charity Widowed and Young (Way), which offers support to anyone whose partner has died.

Under the current rules, bereaved families are entitled to the Widowed Parent's Allowance which draws on the deceased parent's National Insurance contributions to provide for their family until the youngest child leaves school.

However, April 6, 2017, it will be replaced by the Bereavement Support Payment, which provides support for just 18 months.

At the moment when a spouse or civil partner dies there is a £2,000 tax free sum then a monthly payment of £487 which is taxed.

Under the new system the tax free lump sum goes up to £3,500 followed by 18 monthly payments of £350.

If someone is currently on this allowance their payments will not be affected.

The Government had originally planned to end bereavement support after just one year, but extended the scheme following a public consultation.

The payments will be tax free and exempt from the benefits cap, while the poorest out-of-work families with children are expected to see an increase in the cash value of their awards. Furthermore, the bereavement payments will now be available to widows and widowers without children for the first time.

Way claims that the new plans will still leave 91 per cent of parents worse off than they would be under the current system.

Mrs Abrahams explained that the cut to the widowed parent's allowance will impact on child poverty, saying: "We know that three quarters of the parents who are bereaved and their children, around 40,000, who were affected in 2015 will lose, on average, about £17,000 and this compounds the grief that they're experiencing.

"It really is a new low for the Government.

"It's not going to be uprated with inflation; there's going to be conditionality. So six months after someone has been bereaved, although this payment will go on for 18 months, they have to demonstrate that they're actively looking for work. It really is absolutely appalling."

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