Widows’ pensions and bereavement support explained

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If your spouse or civil partner passes away, you may be entitled to receive a welfare benefit from the government to prevent you from suffering financial hardship in your time of loss. On this page, you’ll learn more about widows’ pensions (now called the Bereavement Support Payment) and the other benefits you may be entitled to.

Key takeaways
  • Widow’s pension: The UK Widow’s Pension, now known as the Bereavement Allowance, was offered to widows aged over 45

  • Eligibility: You may have been eligible to claim this allowance for up to 52 weeks if your partner or spouse died before the 6th April 2017

  • Bereavement support: If your partner passed or passes away after this date, you’ll be eligible to claim a different type of governmental support, called the Bereavement Support Payment

What is a widow’s pension?

The Widow’s Pension was available until the 9th April 2001 to widows aged 45 or over to provide support if a spouse or civil partner has passed away. 

Initially intended for women whose husbands had died, the Widow’s Pension was first introduced in 1925 by the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Contributory Benefits Act, and was payable until the widow reached the age of 65, retired or remarried.

The Widow’s Pension was replaced in 2001 by the Bereavement Allowance, which is available to all widowed parents or surviving civil partners, regardless of gender. However, those already receiving a Widow’s Pension prior to this change continue on the Widow’s Pension scheme. 

The main difference between the Widow’s Pension and the Bereavement Allowance is that the latter is only payable for up to 52 weeks or until the bereaved partner reaches state pension age, whichever comes first. 

Bereavement Allowance only applies if your partner or spouse died on or before the 6th April 2017 because the 2014 Pensions Act ratified the new Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) scheme. The BSP has now replaced the Bereavement Allowance (previously Widow’s Pension), Bereavement Payment and the Widowed Parent’s Allowance. With this in place, if your partner died or dies after the 6th April 2017, BSP is the financial support you may be entitled to receive.

What is the Bereavement Support Payment?

Like the Widow’s Pension, the Bereavement Support Payment is a welfare benefit you can claim if your spouse or civil partner dies. It’s designed to provide financial support to widows in the 18 months following their spouse’s death, helping to cover bills and other expenses during what is a difficult time. 

This benefit is available to everyone, regardless of gender or income level, although the amount you’ll receive will depend on whether you have children and are eligible for child benefit. 

Unlike previous widow’s pension schemes, the BSP doesn’t have a minimum eligibility age, though it does stop when you reach state pension age. The BSP replaced the 2001 Bereavement Allowance, which is only applicable to those whose partners died on or after 6th April 2017.

Am I eligible to claim the Bereavement Support Payment?

You may be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment if you meet the following criteria:

  • Your spouse or civil partner died within the last 21 months (you’ll need to claim within three months of their death to receive the full amount) 
  • Your spouse or civil partner paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year since 6 April 1975, or they died as a result of an accident at work or a work-related illness
  • You were below the state pension age when they died and living in the UK or a country that pays bereavement payments

How much is the Bereavement Support Payment?

Unlike the Women’s Pension and Bereavement Allowance, the Bereavement Support Payment consists of one initial lump sum payment of £2,500, though you may claim up to £3,500 if you have children. After this initial payment, you’ll be able to claim 18 monthly instalments of up to £100, or £350 if you have children. There’s a higher rate and a lower rate, as shown in the table below. 

You may be eligible for the higher rate if you’re claiming (or are entitled to claim) child benefit. If you’re not claiming child benefit, you’ll receive the lower rate unless you were pregnant at the time of your spouse or civil partner’s death.

The BSP rates for 2024/25 are:

First lump sum payment18 monthly paymentsTotal amount payable
Higher rate (eligible for child benefit)£3,500£350£9,800
Lower rate£2,500£100£4,300

Who isn't eligible for a Bereavement Support Payment?

You’re not eligible to receive BSP if you’re divorced, live with someone else, or were in prison when your partner died.

Are Bereavement Support Payments taxable?

Bereavement Support Payments aren’t taxable and won’t be included when calculating your entitlement to means-tested benefits for a year following your first payment.

After a year, any money you have left from your first payment will be taken into account if you make a claim for a means-tested benefit, such as Universal Credit.

How do I claim the Bereavement Support Payment?

Claiming your Bereavement Support Payment is a similar process to claiming Bereavement Allowance. You’ll be eligible to claim as long as your partner paid enough National Insurance contributions or they died on the job or in a job-related accident. You’ll also need to have been under the state pension age and living in the UK (or a country that pays bereavement payments). 

You must claim your Bereavement Support Payment within three months of your spouse or partner’s death in order to receive the full payment. If you claim after this time, you may receive fewer monthly payments. 

You can either apply online (this is a trial service) or by phoning the Bereavement Support Service Helpline. Alternatively, you can download a BSP1 form or pick one up from your local Jobcentre Plus and send it to the address on the form.

What is the Widowed Parent's Allowance?

The Widowed Parent’s Allowance is another type of benefit that was paid if you were raising your children when your civil partner or spouse passed away. However, like the Bereavement Allowance (formerly the Widow’s Pension), it’s also been replaced by the new Bereavement Support Payment. 

The Widowed Parent’s Allowance applies to deaths that occured between the 11th April 1998 and the 5 April 2017, so if your spouse or civil partner died after this, you’ll receive the Bereavement Support Payment instead. 

For those already receiving the Widowed Parent’s Allowance, the maximum you’ll get is £148.40 per week in the 2024/25 tax year, which runs from the 6th April 2024 to the 5th April 2025. The exact amount you’ll receive depends on how much National Insurance your spouse or civil partner paid prior to their death.

You can claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance until you are no longer eligible to receive child benefit.

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