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Widowed Parent’s Allowance after child’s death

James Craig
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A client in receipt of widowed parent’s allowance recently suffered the loss of her only child. She informed Tell Us Once promptly, but has received a demand for overpaid WPA, seemingly for the whole period following her child’s death.

One clear defence is that by informing Tell Us Once she discharged her obligation to disclose a change of circumstances, and so any overpayment shouldn’t be recoverable.

But it also seemed to me, looking at s.39A, SSCBA 1992, that there shouldn’t be an overpayment in the first place, at least for the 8 weeks following her child’s death, because of the client’s continuing entitlement to CB during that period under s.145A SSCBA.

When I rang the Dover Benefit Centre, however, they were clear that their practice is to stop WPA immediately upon the child’s death (assuming it is the parent’s only child for whom they are getting CB).

To me it seems clear that entitlement to WPA is based on simple “entitlement” to Child Benefit, rather than on the relevant child being alive. Am I missing something?

Elliot Kent
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Yes I think you are correct.

The relevant criterion under s39A is that you are receiving child benefit “in respect of” a child and the effect of s145A (read with the relevant regulations) is that you continue to receive child benefit “in respect of” that child for 8 weeks after they died. Whilst there is an additional criterion that the child falls within s39A(3) and that provision is framed in the present tense, I don’t see that any of it’s provisions are really inconsistent with an entitlement continuing after the child’s death.

There is perhaps an analogy to be drawn with something like the UC carers element which continues after the death solely as a result of the CA entitlement continuing through the run-on, rather than because of any special provision having been made for a carers element run-on.

Taxpayers ought to be re-assured that there is someone working at Dover Benefit Centre who apparently has the job of systematically identifying widowed parents whose children have since died and hitting them with dubious overpayment demands.

James Craig
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Elliot Kent - 26 April 2022 12:19 PM

Taxpayers ought to be re-assured that there is someone working at Dover Benefit Centre who apparently has the job of systematically identifying widowed parents whose children have since died and hitting them with dubious overpayment demands.

Apparently this is a rare occurrence, so the relevant person will have plenty of time for other useful activities…

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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I thought about the present tense issue as well but I agree with Elliot here.

That’s particularly so as the child in sec.39(2)(a) is defined as being one who falls into subsection 3 and that provides that:

(3)A child or qualifying young person falls within this subsection if the child or qualifying young person is either—
(a)a son or daughter of the surviving spouse or civil partner and the deceased spouse or civil partner

So the deceased child was clearly the son/daughter of the surviving spouse and deceased spouse. The only other condition to be satisfied for WPA, aside from the NIC’s issue, is that they are entitled to CHB (and they certainly appear to be for the 8-week run-on),

I’d also echo the fact that this is about as heartless and callous as you could imagine and I might be thinking about making an official complaint alongside the challenge to the alleged overpayment. The fact that she told the Tell Us Once service and they seem to have failed to fulfil their functions is bad enough, but the fact these people have taken that baton and run even further with it is pretty low.

shawn mach
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 26 April 2022 01:38 PM

... I’d also echo the fact that this is about as heartless and callous as you could imagine and I might be thinking about making an official complaint alongside the challenge to the alleged overpayment. The fact that she told the Tell Us Once service and they seem to have failed to fulfil their functions is bad enough, but the fact these people have taken that baton and run even further with it is pretty low.

Tom Royston has picked up on it on Twitter too: https://twitter.com/tdroyston/status/1519238067915268098

Elliot Kent
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And a tweet now from UC DG Neil Couling https://twitter.com/NeilCouling/status/1519746978095247364

Can’t comment on individual case but as a matter of law entitlement to WPA ends when entitlement to Child Benefit ends. On bereavement of the child the ChB can be paid for 8 weeks, so the WPA would cease after 8 weeks. If you can DM details I can get the individual case looked at

I am sure that Shawn and the folks at Rightsnet towers would be able to assist with the DM’ing should your client wish James.

James Craig
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Thank you Elliot. I have asked the client for permission to give her details. She had already asked for MR of the overpayment decision, on the grounds discussed above.

James Craig
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Update - the DWP responded quickly with an apology and cancelled the client’s overpayment - but only on the basis of official error in continuing to pay her WPA after she had promptly reported her child’s death.

The official DWP position still appeared to be, therefore, that entitlement to WPA ended immediately on the child’s death, rather than eight weeks later after Child Benefit ended.

I asked for this position to be reconsidered, and the DWP now confirm that entitlement to WPA tracks entitlement to Child Benefit. And this even means my client will get a small additional payment, as the previous “overpayment” of WPA wasn’t quite eight weeks’ worth.