Widow’s pension: the bereavement support payment explained

In the distressing period after the death of a spouse or partner the last thing you want to worry about is money. You may be entitled to government benefits to stop you from falling into financial hardship.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby Last updated on 05 April 2022.
Widow’s pension: the bereavement support payment explained

What are bereavement support payments?

The government offers financial support when you lose your spouse or civil partner in the form of bereavement benefits. You may have heard of a widow’s pension, but that was replaced in 2001 by the bereavement allowance, bereavement payment and widowed parent’s allowance. However, in 2017 these benefits were put in one group so that you can now apply for the bereavement support payment instead.

The exception is if your partner died before 6 April 2017, in which case you may be still able to claim the widowed parent’s allowance.

Am I eligible for bereavement support payments?

In order to qualify for bereavement support payments you must have been married or in a civil partnership with your other half when they died. You cannot claim the payment if you were divorced, or you were co-habiting with your partner.

On top of this, you need to be under state pension age and have been living in the UK, or a country that pays bereavement benefits, when your husband, wife or civil partner died. You can find a full list of applicable countries on the Gov.uk website.

You are not allowed to claim the bereavement support payment if you are in prison.

To be eligible, your spouse or civil partner must have made at least 25 weeks of national insurance contributions or died due to their job – either through an industrial accident or a disease caused by work.

In order to get the maximum payment you must make a claim within 3 months of your partner’s death. You can claim for up to 21 months after their death but you will receive fewer monthly payments. There is an exception to this – you can make a claim more than 21 months after their death if the cause of death has only just been confirmed.

How much bereavement support could I get?

The bereavement support payment starts with a lump sum and then a monthly payment for 18 months. In total, you can receive up to £9,800 over the period.

How much you will receive depends on which of the two rates applies to you. The higher rate is paid if you are eligible for, or claiming, child benefit. Everyone else will receive the lower rate.

First lump sum Monthly payment Total payment
Higher rate £3,500 £350 £9,800
Lower rate £2,500 £100 £4,300

How do I claim the bereavement support payment?

To claim the bereavement support payment call the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469.

This is the quickest method but you can use a paper form (BSP1) if you prefer. You can download it from Gov.uk or contact your local Jobcentre Plus.

What is the widowed parent’s allowance?

In most cases, the widowed parent’s allowance has been replaced with the bereavement support payment. The exception to this is if your spouse or civil partner died before 6 April 2017 and the cause of death has just been confirmed.

To claim, you must be under state pension age and be entitled to child benefit. The deceased must also have been the child’s parent.

Your spouse or civil partner will also need to have paid national insurance contributions, unless they died as a result of their work.

If you were pregnant when your partner died, you can still claim the widowed parent’s allowance.

The widowed parent’s allowance is paid until either you stop qualifying for child benefit or you reach state pension age.

How much is the widowed parent’s allowance?

The amount of widowed parent’s allowance you will get depends on how many national insurance contributions your spouse or civil partner made. The maximum amount you can receive is £126.35 a week.

How do I claim the widowed parent’s allowance?

You can apply over the phone by calling the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469.

Alternatively, you can fill out the Bereavement Benefits Pack. This can be downloaded here or you can ask for it at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Am I entitled to my partner’s state pension?

Once you reach state pension age you may be able to claim some of your deceased spouse or partner’s state pension, as long as you haven’t remarried or entered a new civil partnership.

If your civil partner reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, then they were eligible under the old state pension system. This means you may be able to apply to use their national insurance contributions record rather than your own. This can be helpful if they had built up a bigger state pension entitlement than you have.

If your spouse or civil partner had contributed to an additional state pension – and reached, or were due to reach, state retirement age before 6 April 2016 – you may be able to inherit some of this additional amount.

Things are a bit different under the new state pension system that was introduced on 6 April 2016. If your deceased spouse or civil partner would have received the new state pension then you can inherit 50% of any protected payment that they were entitled to.

The protected payment is any portion of your state pension accrued before 2016, that is above the new state pension payment.

When you reach state pension age, the government will ask you your marital status. Ensure you tick that you are widowed rather than single in order to receive your share of any protected payments.

If you are unsure about whether or not you can inherit your spouse or civil partner’s state pension, contact the Pension Service for help.

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Ruth is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites. Specialising in savings, investments, pensions and property. Read more

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