Bishop of Wakefield speaks about bereavement payments during Pensions Bill debate

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, having been one of the signatories, along with 26 other Anglican bishops, to the letter that went to the Daily Mirror last week, I am loath to speak too much about amendments to government legislation. However, on this particular occasion, because bereavement support is such a notable part of our business and ministry, I am very bothered about the direction in which the legislation is going.

I should like to reinforce what was said earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, about cost. It seems to me that it is not a question of cost but of how long support is given to people. What many clergy learn and what people often forget is that, as the noble Baroness said, it is not just the first three months which are difficult—the problems continue throughout the whole of the first year. More than that, it is a matter of showing support for people over the whole period of time that the emotional pain of bereavement continues to be very severe. The issue of supporting people financially has an impact on that emotional pain.

Speaking on behalf of a group of people who spend so much of their time trying to support those who have been bereaved and who need to understand how they can be helped, we might take good note of these amendments. They will not cost more money. They have been tabled simply to try to offer more support over a longer period of time—not only in the raw first year, but over the first three or four years, and particularly where young children are involved and the emotional impact is even greater.

Lord Freud: …Let me now spend a little time explaining exactly why we have decided to design the benefit as a higher lump sum and 12 subsequent monthly instalments. This is an issue that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield raised. The counterargument is that bereavement has long-term implications for families. I understand this, and I realise that after a single year bereaved families will still be suffering and will be in need of support.


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