Thousands of grieving cohabiting families with children to be made eligible for bereavement benefits

After a decade long campaign by the child and youth bereavement sector, MPs have approved the Bereavement Benefits Remedial Order (2022).

Voted in favour by MPs in the House of Lords on 25th January 2023, the order will ensure bereavement benefits that help to bring up dependent children are eligible to non-married or civilly partnered parents after the death of a partner.

Currently around 1,800 parents a year are denied benefits if they were living with but not married to or in a civil partnership with their partner when they died. In addition, more than 21,000 are expected to be eligible for back payments going back to 30th August 2018. The benefits are based on National Insurance (NI) contributions of the partner who died.

With more babies – 51% – being born to unmarried mothers in England and Wales than to those in a marriage or civil partnership since records began (ONS), this means that thousands of children have been denied help worth £9,800. The Government has now introduced a Remedial Order to correct the injustice.

When it comes into force, the Remedial Order will ensure newly bereaved cohabiting parents will be able to claim on behalf of their grieving children. Families who were previously denied these benefits from 30th August 2018 onwards will also be able to claim for retrospective payments. The Childhood Bereavement Network (CBN) estimates that up to 21,000 families could be eligible for a back payment.

Speaking of landmark vote, Winston’s Wish CEO Fergus Crow commented:

This marks a huge step forward for bereaved families in the UK. In the midst of their grief, no child or young person should ever have to feel the impact of their family being denied financial support, simply because their parents are not married or civilly partnered. This vote signifies justice for some of the thousands who were denied help when they needed it most and hope for many more bereaved families to come.

There is plenty more to do, but as a collective the child and youth bereavement sector will continue to work together tirelessly to ensure bereaved families get the support and justice they deserve.

Alison Penny MBE, and Director of the Childhood Bereavement Network, said:

We are hugely relieved by (the) vote, which means that the campaign for justice for these vulnerable children has cleared its final hurdle. When the scheme finally opens for new claims, cohabiting families will no longer face the double hit of being refused financial support following the death of their mum or dad, simply because they weren’t married. We are pleased too that over 20,000 families who were previously denied these benefits will be eligible for back payments to 30th August 2018.

As well as providing these families with crucial financial support, these changes also send an important message to bereaved children and young people across the country that they matter, whatever their parents’ marital status. As a society, it’s vital that we support ALL bereaved children, whatever their circumstances.

Charities had called on Government to make retrospective payments to families bereaved earlier than 30th August 2018. Under the Remedial Order, families bereaved before that date will not get the same amount as their counterparts in a legal union. Charities are now calling on Government to set up an ex-gratia payment scheme to provide a further, proper remedy to these families.

Charities are also concerned that the Remedial Order will not address the wider ongoing shortcomings of bereavement benefits:

  • Since it was introduced on 6th April 2017, Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) has not been included among the benefits that are uprated each year in line with inflation and has remained frozen. That means it has fallen in value by 18.7%.
  • BSP is only paid for 18 months, meaning that 91% of families are supported for a shorter time than they would have been under the old-style Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA) which was paid for as long as the family qualified for Child Benefit, with a median claim of 5 to 6 years. Charities will continue to campaign on these issues.


More information on how cohabiting families access the benefits through the Remedial Order will be shared as soon as information is made available from the Department for Work and Pensions.

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