Estimated £678,600 in Bereavement Support Payment not claimed in two Fife towns
A Kirkcaldy MP estimates that £678,600 of Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) may have gone unclaimed locally between April 2017 and February 2020, leaving Fifers without the financial support they are due.
Neale Hanvey, who also represents Cowdenbeath, is launching a campaign to push the UK government to publish a yearly estimated take-up rate of BSP, and the local MP is calling on Fifers to get in touch with his office if they have missed out on the payment following the death of their spouse.
The campaign comes after Mr Hanvey managed to extract new information from the UK government confirming that the Department for Work and Pensions has no intention to assess the take-up rate of BSP.
In February 2019, Labour MP Colleen Fletcher asked the UK government about the new benefit and was told that ‘to date no assessment of the take up rate of BSP has been made’.
Mr Hanvey followed this up with a written parliamentary question in April this year, but the minister, Guy Opperman MP, now claims that it is not possible to carry out such an assessment of BSP because ‘this would require monthly data on deaths by age and marital status’.
However, using figures supplied by the House of Commons Library and the National Records of Scotland, Mr Hanvey and his team have estimated the take-up rate of BSP between April 2017 and February 2020 to be just 60 percent across Scotland.
When applied to the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Constituency, that means £678,600 went unclaimed during the same period, with around 122 locals missing out.
If correct, this means that Bereavement Support Payment has one of the lowest take-up rates of any social-security payment in the UK, putting BSP on par with the notoriously under-claimed Pension Credit. By comparison, Income Support and Income-related Employment and Support Allowance has a take-up rate of 90 percent and Housing Benefit 80 percent.
Bereavement Support Payment was introduced in April 2017 to replace Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Bereavement Allowance, and Bereavement Payments. It is available to people whose husband, wife, or civil partner died in the last 21 months. The deceased must have been under pension age at the time of their death and have paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year since 6 April 1975.
The MP said: “I’m shocked that so much money may have been deprived from my constituents at a time of very real need.
“The minister tells me that you can’t accurately assess the take-up rate of Bereavement Support Payment because the UK government doesn’t collect the necessary data. If we take that at face value, we’re being told that the DWP introduced a new social-security payment with absolutely no way of assessing whether it was supporting people who had just lost their partners.
“I first became aware of a possible issue when a constituent contacted me about missing out on some of the bereavement payment. He was unaware he was eligible.
“If our calculations are right, an appalling 122 locals have missed out on any payment at all.
“I’ll be ramping up the pressure on the UK government over the next few months to make sure more folk in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, don’t miss out on the financial support they are due.”