The bedroom tax on bereavement: Grieving families to face spare-room benefit cut within three months

 

Families will be hit by the bedroom tax if a room remains unoccupied for just three months after the death of a family member, bereavement charities have warned.

There have already been several cases of families in social housing told that rooms left “spare” after the death of a child or other family member will become subject to the controversial spare room subsidy.

Currently households are given 52 weeks before they are reassessed, to allow them to decide whether to move or to re-occupy the room before they incur cuts to their housing benefit.

But under the Government’s flagship Universal Credit scheme, which will see housing benefit rolled in with up to five other benefits in one monthly payment, the stay of grace is to be cut to just three months, the National Bereavement Alliance (NBA) said.

The group said there was an urgent need for a review of the financial impact that recent changes to welfare have on people who have been bereaved, warning that the Government risked adding to the “distress” of grieving families.

“When someone has gone through a bereavement, the last thing they want to think about is practicalities,” said Joe Levenson, spokesman for the National Council for Palliative Care,  a leading NBA charity. “They don’t want to be worrying about financial problems or uncertainties about their living arrangements. It really makes a distressing situation even more upsetting and hard to deal with. We’re concerned that changes to the benefit system will put people at risk of not being able to stay in their homes after a bereavement.”

The warning comes in a new report, Life After Death, which also calls for the creation of a ministerial post for bereavement, with responsibility for protecting the interests of grieving people.

Along with a review of the impact of welfare reforms, the group also urged the Government to consider introducing a statutory entitlement to bereavement leave, warning that grieving people across Britain are being “failed” by a lack of support in the workplace.

A survey of more than 4,000 people found one in three who were bereaved in the last five years did not feel their employer treated them with compassion.

Lucy Herd, who lost her son Jack three years ago said that her former partner’s employer’s decision to allow him just three days’ leave had been “inhumane”.

“It’s completely unrealistic to expect people who have lost someone close to them to immediately go back to work and carry on as normal,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said that, overall, grieving families would receive more support after their welfare reforms, with an extra £110m spent on bereavement benefits.

“Currently some benefits can cease or reduce immediately with a death,” the spokesperson said. “But Universal Credit will see payments continue to provide support and the Bereavement Support Payment will see parents receive a £5,000 lump sum and monthly instalments of £400 for a year.”

Case study: Dealing with grief

Lucy Herd, 38, an IT consultant from Berkshire, lost her son Jack in 2010 after he drowned in a pond just before his second birthday. She founded a charity, Jack’s Rainbow, to support bereaved families.

"The past three years have been a long, hard journey. When Jack died, my partner and other members of the family all had to return to work after just three days. 

"You have up to 12 months off to celebrate and adjust to the birth of a child, and to be told that you can have only three days off after the death of a child is inhumane really.

"It’s not until you’ve been there that you know what you might not be entitled to – how many of us pick up our work contract and check how much bereavement leave you get? You don’t expect it to happen to you.

"People could take sick leave, but that goes against your record, and I have heard of bereaved people losing their jobs for taking too much sick leave.

"Everybody deals with grief differently; some people might find going back to work is the best thing for them.

"I always said I wanted to make something positive out of Jack’s short life. Death and grief are still very much taboo subjects. For me, talking about it is a great healing process."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

    £16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

    £9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn