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We can do more for bereaved families.

January 15, 2020 4:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Do you think we care well enough for the more vulnerable in our society?

Have we figured out how best to care for people who've experienced bereavement, people who get ill in old age, those with mental ill-health or adults with learning disabilities?

My own personal experience tells me we haven't. Whether in my own life or for many constituents in my advice surgeries over 20 years, all too often the care and support systems either don't work well enough or aren't even there at all.

Liberal Democrats must make our voice heard on caring - and lead this debate.

Of course, there are also countless examples of excellent care: from family members, well-run local authority services, parts of the NHS and the voluntary sector.

So we must learn from best practice, both in the UK and abroad. And we must face up to the modern caring challenges, not least our ageing population and the rising number of working-age adults who need support.

Liberal Democrats must make our voice heard on caring - and lead this debate. With new ideas and campaigns for better care.

That's why I used my first Prime Minister's Question as Acting Leader to raise one specific caring issue: how we look after bereaved parents and their children.

Bereaved families in the UK recieve inadequate support from the government. @EdwardJDavey asked the Prime Minister to meet with him and charities helping such families to discuss how the government can better care for bereaved parents and their children.#PMQs pic.twitter.com/EhmxBslDVd

- Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) January 15, 2020

It's an issue close to my heart. My dad died when I was four, leaving my mum with three boys under ten. I remember my mum collecting her widow's pension every fortnight, and how important that was to help her adjust and look after my brothers and me, even though we weren't especially poor.

My Prime Minister's Question focused on recent reforms to the financial support we give to bereaved families.

A key part of those reforms was reducing the length of time these payments are made to widows and widowers.

Under the old system, they were paid until the youngest child left school. So in our case, my mum would have been paid her widow's pension for 14 years, had she not died early too.

There was a case for modernising this support, and there were indeed many parts of the new Bereavement Support Payment which I and other campaigners welcomed.

The key aim of my campaign is to get the Government to review the whole Bereavement Support Payment system

But the decision in April 2017 to reduce the duration of these payments to just 18 months after a child had lost their mum or dad went too far.

The idea that grieving stops after 18 months, or that a young parent with young children will be back on their feet again so quickly flies in the face of the evidence.

I've campaigned on this since 2017, working with charities like the Childhood Bereavement Network, Widowed And Young, CRUSE and the Life Matters Taskforce. For example, a parliamentary motion I tabled in November 2017 received cross-party support.

I made some progress with new statistics to back up our case. After meetings with the Office for National Statistics, they commissioned new analysis and published it in a blog last February:

Read now

But the key aim of my campaign is to get the Government to review the whole Bereavement Support Payment system - so it's paid for longer and can be claimed by cohabiting couples not just married couples and civil partners.

It's not a lot to ask that we care for bereaved parents and their young children much better than we did back in 1970.

If you've got a caring issue you'd like me to know about, please email me at leader@libdems.org.uk.