"No child should be left in poverty because their mother or father has died." One of our members from Wales has just written this extraordinarily powerful letter to her MP – and to Jeremy Corbyn. We wanted to share Sian's letter with you today. Please share…
"I am writing to you in relation to the changes set to come in on 6 April regarding the benefits bereaved families are entitled to.
I have never contacted an MP before but I have been so shocked and outraged by these changes that I felt compelled to write to you. I can only assume that these changes are being implemented by people who have never felt the complete heartache that losing your husband or wife entails, and maybe by people who would not need this money as a lifeline should they find themselves in such a situation.
I guess I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones as my husband died last year, which means I will be entitled to my Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA) of just over £130 per week until my children stop having child benefit. I never thought I would feel ‘lucky’ to have lost my husband last year rather than this year. Obviously in reality I would happily give back every penny to have one more day with him, but unfortunately that is not an option.
My husband died at 40 years of age from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia on the 17 July 2016 leaving me a 30 year old widow with 7 year old twin boys. I won’t go into the emotional aspect of this as it’s irrelevant to the issue in question. What I will explain is the practical implications of his death. Before his illness, my husband was the main earner in our household, so clearly financially it has had a massive impact. I am fortunate in the respect that I have a career of my own so I am still able to provide for my family, but the reduction in our monthly incomings has been huge.
I am a police officer, a career I am extremely proud of and passionate about, but also a career which involves a rotating shift pattern over 24 hours 365 days a year. Following the loss of my husband I was basically faced with having to leave the force. It was absolutely impossible for me to work full time as the only living parent of two young boys, and I could not afford to work part time. Then I found out about WPA and I cannot put into words the weight this lifted. This payment has allowed me to drop my hours, allowing me to give my children the consistency of me being available to them emotionally and physically, allowing me to still earn a wage doing a job that makes a genuine difference to my community, allowing me to retain some level of normality and structure to my life.
If I came under the new regulations I would only get this money for 18 months. What possible good is that to me long term? It would offer me no security; it would offer me nothing more than a few months grace before the harsh reality of either having to look for a new career or having to be in severe financial difficulty. This payment hasn't taken away the financial strain; I am still bringing home less money than I was before with my wage and the WPA payment, and I have no way at all of making up my husband’s wage. However, it has meant that I can afford to pay my bills, feed and clothe my kids and that with strict budgeting I can manage month to month.
I appreciate there is not an unlimited pot of money, but these benefits are given to widows or widowers based on the National Insurance contributions of their spouses. It is money my husband has paid into the system, it is the pension he never lived long enough to claim. Until my husband was diagnosed in April 2015 he had never taken a sick day in his life, he had worked hard and was proud and passionate about providing for his family. What gives the government more entitlement to the money he paid into the system than his children who he worked so tirelessly to provide for?
As a couple we never claimed a benefit other than child benefit, (other than PIP and carers when we both had to be off work unpaid due to his condition). We supported ourselves and strived to work hard and make the best life for our family. I am now faced with a situation completely out of my control, where I am in desperate need of the safety net WPA provides. To rip this safety net from people is condemning families to poverty and making a horrendous situation even worst.
WPA was in need of changing, that is without doubt, but these current changes are in no way for the better. The only thing wrong with the current system is that it is only available to married couples and not those cohabiting, or even those children whose parents had split up. In my humble opinion it should be available to all parents who are bringing up bereaved children. I know of someone whose partner died last year leaving her with a small baby; they weren't married so she's not entitled to WPA. Why is that baby not entitled to help from the government in the form of payments her Dad paid in? This is a benefit for the children and to assist in their upbringing. Losing a parent is hard enough, without having to watch your surviving parent struggling to make ends meet every month. No child should have to live in poverty because their mother or father has died.
I read in the paper that an MP had said the new changes will mean families get support for 18 months when they need it the most, and that the current system is out dated as it suggests that most families have one working parent, which is not often the case. I am only six months into this horrendous journey but I cannot see how a year from now I will be in any less need of this support. In fact from speaking to others the second year is often the worse. I certainly will not be in a better financial situation, or in a situation where this money is not a lifeline for me and my children. My children are not suddenly going to be able to fend for themselves while I work full time. Yes, we were a two parent working family, but that doesn't factor into the equation that we are now a one parent family. Where one person has to earn a living, as well as bringing up their children and everything that entails. It doesn't factor in that when I went to work nights, afternoons or weekends my husband used to look after our kids, but he's not here to do that anymore. Widowed parents are the only parents the children have. There is no weekend at the other parent’s, there is no sharing of responsibility, childcare, financial upbringing. We are it. We are our children's everything and quite frankly I would not be able to be the parent my children desperately need and deserve without the small cushion of WPA.
You may wonder why I have bothered to send this email, after all it doesn't affect me directly. The reason why I feel so passionately about this is because the people who it will affect are not going to be arguing or campaigning against it. Most of them will be blissfully unaware that their world is going to be shattered into pieces, and that these changes are going to add to the pain and stress they are about to face. If I had heard of these changes in 2014, I wouldn't have given them a second thought. After all it was never going to happen to me. Maybe that is why the government feel confident that this is a benefit they can cut without too much uproar. One thing I have found since losing my wonderful husband, though, is that you become part of a widowed club you never wanted to join, but one where people support and help you as much as they possible can. I feel obligated to try and make my voice heard and try to make a stand for people who will find themselves part of the widowed community. If those of us who know what is being stolen from people don't stand up and try and do something then who will?"
Sian, WAY member from Wales
If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues in this article, please follow the link to WAY website for more help and info – https://www.widowedandyoung.org.uk/
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