Diary of WPA application for an unmarried parent

February 2023

After a decade-long campaign by WAY and a coalition of charities, from 9 February 2023 cohabiting parents with dependent children who need support following the death of their partner will finally be able to apply for bereavement benefits.

Elanor's partner died in 2005 and she is one of many WAY members who are eligible to apply for retrospective payments under the Widowed Parent's Allowance (WPA) system, which was the old system that stopped in April 2017. People widowed after that date are eligible for Bereavement Support Payment instead.

Elanor is sharing a diary as she goes through the application process


Screenshot of the benefit on the DWP website

Thursday, 9 February 2023: 12.01 (one minute after the system went live!!)

I was still awake at midnight so I went onto the Government website to check if the changes had been made - and yes - really clearly and happily there is provision for ‘living together as though you are married’ on there!

Thursday, 9 February - 8am

I found the link to download the form, but nothing is downloading!!  And here is why….

Screenshot of broken link

They haven’t added the link yet!!

I guess this means a long queue on the phone?!

Actually, no!! 

I just called and after a few menu choices got through to the lovely Amy. She has offered to send me a form in the post!  Hooray for real people.  Though I can’t say I’m not disappointed at the wait for it to arrive. I will probably keep trying to download it in the meantime. 

While I’m waiting I’m thinking about the tax implications and how that works and doing some reading to see if I can make sense of it. WPA is taxed as part of your income so the maximum payment of £126.35 a week will be more like £101.08 a week for starters - although tax is complex and it depends on other wages, benefits and your personal allowance.

Thursday, 9 February - 11:45am

I checked the GOV.UK page again - and the file is now there!!!

This is more information about applying for Widowed Parent's Allowance here (that's if you were bereaved before 6 April 2017, like me, when the system changed to Bereavement Support Payment).

If you were bereaved on or after 6 April 2017, you should follow the link for Bereavement Support Payment here.

Basically you just click on each document which opens a PDF then you can download it.  There is a warning there about the tax issue and that if you do a tax self assessment (which I do) you will have to write to the relevant department to let them know the changes.  

And here’s the warning about the tax implications:

Warning of tax implications

Thursday, 9 February - 2pm

It’s after lunch now and I’ve had a chance to look over the forms. It’s fairly straightforward and there doesn’t seem to be any request for evidence at this point. Something I hadn’t envisaged though - they want to know about relationships since losing my partner. 

I did live with another chap two years after Robin died for just a few months. It was all a bit of a nightmare! Now I have to drag all that back up as I need his National Insurance number for the form and I will lose payments for the time he lived with us, unfortunately.

Friday, 10 February (day after the system went live): Noon

My printer is broken so I still haven't been able to print out the form to submit my application. I think I'll wait for the form Amy sent to arrive in the post.

It's great to see that people who are applying for Bereavement Support Payments have been able to make their applications online and it all seems to be going pretty smoothly and quickly for those people (who were widowed after 6 April 2017). Someone even said their application had already been accepted and they should receive their back payments within five working days!

It still feels pretty surreal that I can now apply for retrospective Widowed Parent's Allowance. It's amazing and I'm so pleased that thousands of people will now receive the support they were due. Although I still feel pretty guarded about the process and will only believe it when the money arrives in my bank account!


Widowed Parent's Allowance paperwork

Saturday, 11 February

My form has arrived in the post today. I will be starting to fill in the easier questions first, I think, while still looking for guidance on how the tax implications will affect me and what the best way to handle that is.

Monday, 20 February

Yesterday I was looking through my 2008 diary again and I found an entry that has given me the start date of my Tax Credit changes that year, so now I have all the information I need to send off the form. 

I still don’t completely understand the tax issues with claiming WPA, but as I have done Self Assessment Tax Returns for many years, I will need to make the necessary corrections to each year by writing to the relevant HMRC department!

I’m still going to send off my claim because I doubt it will leave me worse off and because I feel like the money is rightfully being awarded now for my daughter. She should never have been discriminated against in the first place.


Posting the application paperwork

Tuesday, 21 February

In the interests of trying to discover more about the tax implications of this WPA application, I have tried to get in touch with Citizen’s Advice – I couldn’t get through on the phone to my local office and can’t get the online chat function to load - so not sure what to try next!  Will have to try again another time I suppose.

Monday, 27 February

After much thought about the tax implications and what it would mean if any payment went into my 22/23 tax year, I have decided to send in the application now. I know some people are waiting for the new tax year, but I don’t see any benefit in that for me, and it would be good to just have this settled now.

I will let you know when I get a response!

Thursday, 23 March

Today is a National Day of Reflection for the country to remember those lost to the Covid pandemic. It’s also the day I finally feel ready to write down the rage I have felt at the bureaucracy and pettiness in trying to stop people in their claims for absolutely no reason except pure idiocy.  

So last week I received the letter I was kind of expecting from the DWP about my claim for Widowed Parent's Allowance. Photos are displayed of the absolutely insulting and very long list of items the department apparently need as evidence that I was living with Robin when he died.  

Firstly, it’s insulting because they can’t take my word for it whereas if you are married they would.

Secondly, it’s ridiculous because they can easily check where we were both living on the electoral register on the date he died.  

They don’t need to send this form at all. Its only purpose is to make the receiver jump through hoops and possibly give up on a claim because it’s too much for them.

It’s playing to insecurities and emotional distress. To say I am incandescent over it wouldn’t be too far from the truth. It’s brought up all kinds of emotions and on top of that, there is a deadline to send all these documents back to them by 3 April!  

So apparently, I don’t have a year to apply now?!

I have had to order another death certificate at a cost of £11. If you want it faster it suddenly becomes £35!!

The paperwork I have left is only because I am a bit of a hoarder. Robin died in 2005. I have moved house since then. How do they expect me to have all these things?!

Another thing that’s annoyed me is that they don’t tell you how many of the items you need!  Some are irrelevant like the rental agreement, but do they need 3 things or all of the relevant ones?  

I will have to go up to the loft to find Robin’s driving licence, if I even have it. I can’t remember because it was so long ago.

Arrghhhh.

Rest assured that I will be writing a very firmly worded letter with the documents I send back. I only hope I get the death certificate in time. There’s no way I was paying £35 for priority delivery of a piece of paper.

So please beware of this extra step in the whole process and DON’T GIVE UP!

Monday, 15th May

After receiving a slightly worrying call a couple of weeks ago asking for my application, when I had sent it two weeks before that, I finally received the decision this morning.

“We have looked at your claim for Widowed Parent’s Allowance and have decided we can pay you.”

Woo-hoo! Well, the wording isn’t the most friendly, especially after I bent over backwards looking out old documents and buying a new copy of the death certificate to send off as ‘evidence’ we lived together at the time.  Not easy to find after 17 years! But hey, I have been proved not to be a liar!

The letters include a lot of information about who you need to now tell because this is a taxable benefit (such a weird concept). If you are on Pay as You Earn (PAYE) for tax purposes, they calculate the tax on each year’s allowance for you. But if you are a self-assessment tax payer, which I am, you have to get in touch with the inland revenue (HMRC) to organise it yourself. I also get tax credits and so have to declare this new payment for those purposes too. By the time I do my next return, it will be easier, but the back payments are a special case and I will probably try to call HMRC and get help with it from a human.

There is another section in the envelope telling you what changes you need to report; this is mostly around the qualifying child. They have also given a useful breakdown of the annual payments, although it’s not quite to tax year dates for some reason.

One thing I may call them about is the amount. It’s hard to determine whether I’m receiving the total allowed or not. In the further breakdown the amounts do go up slightly over the years, but there’s nothing to say what I will be receiving each week now in 2023 - so I don’t know if it’s the full amount or not. (I’m guessing the payment should arrive in my bank on Thursday (going by their dates) and so I can check then I suppose. I don’t know if this is an omission on the part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as this is all new to them and they are still learning about it too - or they simply assume you know about it already?! But as Robin worked full time and paid all his National Insurance, I think it might be worth a phone call to check!

I do hope others are now also being granted this Widowed Parent’s Allowance (WPA) as they should have been all along. But if you haven’t applied yet, do go for it. You deserve to be recognised as the partner of the deceased and a hard working parent dealing with grief and finances, not some con artist out to gain from the state! However, I would advise people to check their individual circumstances before they apply, particularly if they are receiving Universal Credit because some WAY members have reported facing difficulties in the way the payments interact. (You can find an adviser at this link here).

Friday, 19th May

So yesterday I received seven different payments into my bank account to cover all the retrospective WPA payments! The chap I spoke to about the figures earlier in the week had told me the system couldn’t cope with the large amounts if they were paid all together! It was such a happy day for it to happen as it would have been my 32nd anniversary of getting together with Robin! Justice? A little bit anyway.

I then decided I should call HMRC to get the tax sorted out, but after a very frustrating time with their phone system, and giving out amounts to the call handler, he realised I was a self assessment customer. After he clicked about on his computer a bit more, he told me they couldn’t handle this over the phone, so I have to write a letter with all the details and post it to an address he gave me. He did then put me through to Tax Credits and I managed to sort it all out fine with them, but then they only want to know about the ongoing payments and not the retrospective ones. Thank goodness! It will still take weeks to adjust and I will probably have to pay some money back to them too.

Today I’ve also received the first of the ongoing payments along with a letter from the DWP pensions department about the payments that will now arrive every four weeks.

It’s all such a relief that it’s sorted and I can treat my daughter and put the rest aside for her future. She will be 18 in October and (hopefully) in full-time education for at least another year, so those payments will help me support her with her studies and she won’t have to worry about finding a part-time job so she can focus on the exam results she needs.

I will also still have to write this letter to the HMRC. Goodness knows how long it will take for them to then tell me how much tax I owe. I’ve worked it out at the basic 20% because even with my wage before it wouldn’t have been on the higher rate. So I think I know what they will ask for. So I suppose I can put that amount away for any repayments needed, but I will be much happier when that is all sorted out.

You can read more about Elanor's story here

Find out how to apply for Widowed Parent’s Allowance or Bereavement Support Payments.

If you have any questions about the process, please check out these Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have any further questions, you can find an adviser.