I believe that support for widowed parents and their children is absolutely crucial. I share concerns about cuts to this vital benefit.
The Conservative Government announced in January that the current three-tier system of support for bereaved families would be replaced with a Bereavement Support Payment, effective from April 2017. The payment will consist of an initial lump sum of £3,500 for people with children and £2,500 for those without children, and a further 18 monthly instalments payable to the surviving spouse or civil partner of £350 for those with children and £100 for those without.
Organisations like the Childhood Bereavement Network have raised concerns about the changes. They are particularly concerned that instead of parents receiving support until their youngest child leaves school, or for a maximum period of 20 years, they will receive financial help for just 18 months. The Childhood Bereavement Network has said that the average working widowed parent will lose out on over £12,000.
These changes represent a new low in policy, and I am particularly concerned about the impact they will have on the four million children currently living in poverty. The majority of bereaved families will lose out financially and this will only compound the grief families are already feeling and limit the ability of parents to comfort their children. It is also the case that the proposed changes are not going to be uprated with inflation.
I oppose these plans and I will press the Conservative Government to discuss these changes in Parliament, and ultimately to reverse them.