If you receive Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or Family Credit, or the person who has died was a war pensioner, you may qualify for help to pay for the basic cost of a funeral from the Department of Social Security. If you are eligible for a Funeral Payment, the amount you get will depend on your financial situation. Apply for this assistance as soon as you can - although you can make a claim up to three months following the funeral so long as you have the receipt from the funeral director. It is best to apply for assistance before the funeral takes place. This is because you may need to know whether you will receive assistance when planning the details of the funeral. Your funeral director, your local Benefits Agency (Social Security) office or Citizens Advice Bureau can help you to claim. The Social Security claim form you will need is SF200.
If the person who has died was employed, there may be death-in-service arrangements which would produce money fairly quickly or the employer may run a benevolent fund which might provide you with assistance.
Find out whether the deceased was a member of a cremation society, had a pre-paid funeral plan or an insurance policy to cover the cost of the funeral.
If there is no money to pay for the funeral your local council (or hospital, if the person died there) will pay the cost of a simple funeral. This will be a dignified funeral followed by cremation or burial, and is not like the old “pauper’s” funeral. Discuss this with the council or hospital as soon as you can.
If you do not have access to money because the deceased’s financial assets have been frozen, your bank or building society may be able to help you until probate (in Scotland, confirmation of the estate) is granted. If there is a life-insurance policy the insurance company may be able to give you the interest earned on the money in the policy before probate is granted.
How to claim
Complete form SF200 Funeral Payments from the Social Fund, available from your Benefits Agency Office.
When to claim
For further information see SB 16 available from the Benefits Agency.
Application Or Claim Form
Contact your social security office for an application form or claim form. For your nearest social security office, look for the Benefits Agency display advert in the business numbers section of the phone book.
Proof Of Identity
You will need proof of identity when you make a claim. You may be asked about your background and to provide official documents to support the information you give. This could be your original birth certificate, passport or other documents. You may need more than one.
If you are not sure about this, get leaflet GL25 "How to prove your
identity for social security" from your social security office.
Contact your local Benefits Agency (Social Security office and ask them about any pension or other entitlements you might be due. If you return a pension book, keep a record of the reference number, as you may need this later on.
There are entitlements for some widows including tax-free, lump sum Widow’s Payment and a Widow’s Pension. These are not available for everyone as you have to meet certain conditions to qualify. Do check to see if you are eligible and claim as soon as you can.
If the deceased received any state or private pension or benefit, the appropriate office must be notified of the change in circumstances.
Inform the tax office about your change in circumstances. There are special tax arrangements for widows and some widowers. Depending on your situation, you may also need to find out about inheritance tax.
Apart from informing those already mentioned of the death, there will be a number of other practical matters to sort out and people to notify. These could be insurance companies, including car insurance if you own a car, the bank and mortgage supplier, employer, trade union and so on. If the death means that you will find it difficult to manage living without some help, for example if you are disabled, your local council’s social services department can advise you.
You should return such things as driver’s licence, passport
and so on to the appropriate office. A refund can be obtained on TV
licences and some season tickets.
At present Sickness Benefit and Invalidity Benefit may be available to bereaved persons unable to work due to sickness or disability. Invalidity Benefit is paid if a person is incapable of work after 28 days when Statutory Sick Pay or Sickness Benefit exists.
At present, anyone with over £8,000 is not entitled to Income Support or Family Credit and anyone with over £16,000 is not entitled to Housing Benefit. Savings of £3,000 - £8,000 can reduce the rate of benefit paid.
Bereaved persons unable to work and in receipt of benefits
might well find their entitlement is dramatically reduced if they receive
a lump sum settlement or structured settlement.
If there is a will, the executors are responsible for ensuring that it is carried out. If you are an executor you can get advice from a Citizens Advice Bureau or solicitor. If there is no will, and money or property have been left by the deceased, an application for legal authority to administer the estate must be made to the Probate Registry. You can do this yourself but you may want to seek the advice of a Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a solicitor.
If you do not have a solicitor, you can find one by either asking a friend or neighbour to recommend one or by asking your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Obtain an estimate of cost and time envisaged before committing yourself. If you arrange to see a solicitor, try to have all your documents and questions together before you visit them as this will save on time and therefore expense.
A Legal Aid Scheme exists to give people on low incomes access to legal help for a reduced fee or no fee at all, this is called the Green Form Scheme. A ‘means test’ will have to be carried out to see if you qualify for this form of aid. Ask at your local Citizens Advice Bureau for more information and details of local solicitors participating in the Legal Aid Scheme.
If the bereaved persons are in receipt of benefit then it is vital (to protect their position) that the compensation is placed in a Trust Fund on their behalf in which case the capital should be protected.
The provisions provide that, where the funds of the Trust are derived from a payment made in consequence of any personal injury (this would include a claim for statutory bereavement £7,5000 or any compensation award) to the claimant, the value of the Trust Fund and the value of the right to receive any payment under the Trust, should be disregarded as capital in calculating a claimants entitlement to Income Support, Family Credit and Housing Benefit Regulations.
The Trust Fund must be set up before the solicitor receives the settlement money.
If a claim for damages is successfully pursued, an amount equal to certain Social Security benefits a bereaved person may have received, is liable to be deducted from the payment and paid direct to the DHSS by whoever pays the compensation – usually an insurance company.
The period during which benefits may reduce the amount of
compensation is likely to begin on the day following the death or from the
date on which the first claim benefit is received. It ends on the date
final compensation is paid or five years from the beginning of the period
– whichever comes first.
The Road Traffic Act 1991 was introduced to alleviate public anxiety concerning what was seen as the lenient treatment by the Courts of those convicted of causing death as a result of driving offences. The penalties imposed were increased by the Criminal Justice Act 1993:
Causing Death by Dangerous Driving – from 5 years to 10 years with effect from July 1993.
Causing Death by Careless Driving when under the Influence of Drink or Drugs – from 5 years to 10 years from July 1993.
Maximum sentences are rarely imposed.
Bereaved parents, spouses and other relatives are not
represented in criminal proceedings. In some areas, the Crown Prosecution
Service employs a Liaison Officer, with responsibility to keep bereaved
parents informed of hearing dates, it is however possible for criminal
trials to take place without them being notified.
There are variations in charges made for an infant or child. Ask the funeral director about charges made for services, burial and cremation before completing your arrangements and obtain a written estimate.
If the parent or parents are on income support, family credit, disability working allowance, housing benefit or council tax benefit, they may get some help with the costs.
How to claim:
Get form SF2000 from a social security office
Leaflet D49 “What to do after a death” in England and Wales
The eldest child qualifies for a higher rate. If the family sequence is altered by the death of a child, new benefit books may be required. If it is an only child that dies, the benefit book must be sent back to the social security office. Do not cash any orders after your child’s death.
Free phone Benefits Enquiry line: 0800 882 200
Income Support and Family Credit
Both of these depend not only on income but also on the number and age of dependent children. There may be a change in eligibility for these benefits because of change of family circumstances.
Income Support leaflet I.S.1
Family Credit Pack F.C.1
Family Credit Leaflet N1261
This entitlement is not affected by the subsequent death of
a child, provided the pregnancy has reached the 24th week. It is payable
for the eighteen weeks following the date of confinement.
The Child Benefit Allowance paid for the child or children, is transferable to the new carers should both parents have died. The book should be sent back to the Social Security Office for the names to be changed. Do not cash any allowances after a death has occurred.
One Parent Benefit
For people bringing up a child alone – payable for the eldest child in addition to the Child Benefit.
0ne Parent Benefit Leaflet: CH11
Payable in addition to Child Benefit to someone bringing up a child whose parents are dead.
Guardians Allowance Leaflet: NI14
If you are receiving Income Support or Family Credit, you are entitled to various Health Benefits.
Health Costs leaflet: HC11
All leaflets mentioned are available from the local Social Security Office or Post Office:
Free Dental Treatment/Free Prescriptions
Mothers are entitled to both of these for one year following the birth of a baby even if the baby subsequently dies.
Any savings accounts, building society accounts or bank accounts will need to be closed.
Contact a solicitor if the child was a beneficiary under the
Claims for compensation are dealt with by the County Court and the High Court. Claims can in certain circumstances include loss of earnings for bereaved parents and siblings who find it impossible to return to work. Most important, Court proceedings can provide sums of money for private psychiatric treatment and professional therapy/counselling for parents and brothers and sisters traumatised by a death.
If a spouse has been killed or seriously injured in the same accident as that in which the child died, then there may be a claim for loss of dependency where the surviving husband, wife or children have lost the parent’s income or, alternatively, future earnings.
Negligence must be proved in order to bring a successful claim for compensation.
A claim must be brought within three years of the child’s death although there is the right to ask the Court to exercise its discretion to extend the time in which to issue proceedings. Conditional fees have recently been introduced to our legal system. They are of great benefit to persons who feel they cannot take cases further because of the risk of losing and the associated high costs.
A relatively recent development often of particular relevance to bereaved parents and their remaining living children is nervous shock or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It arises when a parent or child in the family suffers a recognised psychiatric stress disorder or depressive illness after the death of a child in respect of which the Courts may be prepared to make awards of damages.
As the law stands, compensation for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is awarded only if bereaved persons can satisfy three requirements:-
This last requirement was crucial as regards the parents who issued proceedings for PTSD after the Hillsborough disaster as the Courts found that they were not entitled to compensation because they had “merely” seen the events unfold on their television screens.
Awards of damages may be high if the bereaved parent has not been able to continue in employment and previously earned significant sums.
A bereaved parent who does not suffer nervous shock or PTSD will be entitled to the statutory bereavement award of £7,500 plus expenses although damages for pain and suffering may be added if the child dies as a result of the injuries at a later date.
If a spouse has been killed or seriously injured in the same accident as that in which the child died, there may be a claim for loss arising when the surviving husband or wife or children have lost the parent’s income or, alternatively, future losses taking into account a parent’s disability and loss of future earnings.
In the absence of PTSD suffered by a bereaved parent or sibling, no claim is possible in respect of the death of a child over the age 18 years. However claims may be brought on behalf of the deceased child’s estate. In such instances the compensation will be limited to the monetary value placed upon the pain and suffering between the injury and the resulting death. For example, in the case of a road traffic accident between the date when the injury was sustained and the child’s death.
Over the past five years, structured settlements have been
introduced to the legal system. A bereaved parent who is unable to work
because of, for example, PTSD might receive a lump sum payment and an
annual income increased usually in line with the Retail Price Index on the
basis that he or she will be protected financially for the future.
Compensation for a Violent Crime
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (previously the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board) was set up in the early 1960’s. It’s aim was to compensate victims of crimes of violence. Compensation followed level of damages in civil claims.
The Tariff Scheme is a fundamental change in the system which allocates specific amounts for victims of crimes of violence and completely fails to take account of an individual’s personal circumstances or perhaps inability to work again. There is no legal definition of the term “crime of violence” but it usually involves a physical attack on the person.
Where a child has died, the maximum award the Authority can grant is in accordance with Level 13 - £10,000.
The persons eligible to make a claim are:-
If there is more than one qualifying claimant then each person will receive compensation in accordance with Level 10 – £5,000.
In addition, application may be made for reimbursement of reasonable funeral expenses even if the person who has paid for the funeral is otherwise ineligible to claim under the Scheme.
The fatal award may still be claimed if an award has already been made to the deceased child whilst alive. It must be shown that the death resulted from those same injuries.
If witnessing the death has resulted in shock to siblings and/or parents the Scheme provides for awards ranging in value from between £1,0000 and £20,000. The Scheme provides that shock or “nervous shock” may be taken to include conditions attributed to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and similar generic terms. These include such psychological symptoms as anxiety, tension, insomnia, irritability, loss of confidence, agoraphobia, pre-occupation with thoughts of self-harm or guilt and related physical ones such as alopecia, asthma, eczema, enuresis and psoriasis.
Disability in this context will include impaired work or school performance, significant adverse effects on social relationships and sexual dysfunction.
The claim must be sent so that it is received within two years from the date of the incident causing the death.
The Authority will consider the application and if it is acceptable, identify the Level into which the claim falls.
The decision is notified to the claimant and if there is dissatisfaction with the decision, application may be made for it to be reviewed. This should be made in writing within 900 days from the date of notification of the original decision, although this time limit may be waived in exceptional circumstances.
If application is made for a review, it is examined afresh which means that the original decision lapses. The member of staff who carries out the review will be a civil servant but of a higher grade than the one who made the original decision.
The assessment of the reviewing officer may be the same as the original decision, it may be higher or lower or the claim may be rejected altogether.
Appeal then lies to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel. Notice must be given of intention to appeal within 30 days of the notification of the reviewed decision.
There then follows an oral hearing before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel made up of a body of lawyers, entirely independent from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.