Bishop of Peterborough raises concerns about changes to bereavement benefits for parents of children

On 6th April 2017 Baroness Altmann asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they will reconsider changes to bereavement benefits for parents with dependent children.” The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, asked a follow up question. The Bishop had been amongst the signatories of a letter from all sides of the House calling on the Government to reconsider its proposals.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I too signed the letter to the Secretary of State. I fully accept that the system needed reform, but those of us who spend a lot of time looking after people in bereavement know that a widowed parent may sometimes have to spend several years giving considerable extra time, attention and care to the children. In practice, that may necessitate working only part-time for a number of years while children are still at home. Previously in this House there was an assurance that income-related benefits would be there to support such parents, but under universal credit that is not so simple. Can the Minister reassure us that bereaved parents will not be subject to the in-work conditionality requirements that apply under universal credit?

Lord Henley: My Lords, those requirements were explained, I think, by my honourable friend Caroline Nokes when the regulations were dealt with in the Commons. They are complicated but the simple fact is that universal credit and other income-related benefits are there to fill the gap after that 18-month period. We believe that, with a contributory benefit such as bereavement support benefit, it is quite right to make that very generous initial payment, to then provide some support for those with children for 18 months and thereafter to let people seek help from income-related benefits.