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Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Saturday, 6 June 2009 15:22 UK

Bereaved may miss out on benefits

By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

A coffin
An initial payment and ongoing support is often available

Thousands of bereaved spouses and civil partners may be missing out on benefits worth thousands of pounds.

They are paid to working age people and claims have to be made within strict time limits.

But some coroners are not giving bereaved partners all the information they need to claim them.

Coroners say some members are now issuing the booklets about bereavement benefits despite a lack of administrative support.

About 30,000 deaths a year that are sudden or unexpected are referred to the local coroner.

Although they issue an interim death certificate many do not issue the government booklet "What to do after a death" which contains details about bereavement benefits and how to claim them.

The government needs to be much more proactive
Kate Green, Cpag

One Money Box listener has been campaigning for coroners to provide better information.

Ian was not given essential information about bereavement benefits after his wife died in a road accident.

"I didn't receive anything until after the inquest 10 months after her death. Then I was told to go to the Registrar and was given a booklet," he told BBC Radio 4's Money Box.

"Widowed Parent's Allowance can only be backdated by three months so I missed six months of that. I lost about £2,300.

"There is also a Bereavement Payment of £2,000 which has to be claimed within 12 months. I did get that but if the inquest had lasted longer I wouldn't have been able to claim that either," he added.

Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the government should do more to make sure people get the information.

"We need a joined-up way to make sure information is given to individuals and families.

"The government needs to be much more proactive to make sure people understand and get their rights," she said.

What you can get

All bereavement benefits are paid on the National Insurance contributions of the person who has died. They are not means-tested.

Bereavement Payment can be claimed by the spouse or civil partner of someone who dies if either the deceased was not entitled to retirement pension or the widowed person was under pension age.

Claims for the tax-free £2,000 payment have to be made within 12 months of the death.

Bereavement Allowance is paid to widows aged between 45 and pension age.

The taxable benefit is £95.25 a week at age 55 and less at younger ages. It is paid for 52 weeks.

Widowed Parent's Allowance is for people under pension age with a child under 19. It is at least £95.25 a week and is taxable.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 6 June at 1204 BST. Or subscribe to the programme podcast.

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