Former England captain and Manchester United star, Rio Ferdinand, has slammed Government plans to reduce the length of time grieving parents can receive bereavement benefits, it has been reported.
The Tory Government plans to replace existing bereavement benefits for widowed parents with a lump sum, followed by smaller payments for up to 18 months, compared to the current system where parents can continue to receive benefit until their youngest child reaches 18-years-of-age.
Those already in receipt of bereavement benefits will not be affected by the changes.
Tory minister Richard Harrington recently claimed those changes “will help people readjust to single-parent life”, to which Labour’s Stella Creasy accused the minister of cruelly using “justifications that sound like something from the dark ages”.
The changes also mean that cohabiting couples who are not married will not be entitled to receive the new benefit.
Harrington argued that expanding the benefit to cohabiting couples would be too expensive, adding that asking couples to prove cohabitation “could be a lengthy, complex process, which could cause distress at a time of bereavement”.
His opinion isn’t shared by Rio Ferdinand, whose wife Rebecca died in 2015 aged just 34 from breast cancer, leaving behind three children and a devastated father.
Speaking ahead of a BBC1 documentary about his experiences, Rio told Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 live: “I don’t understand how the Government can actually say there’s a time scale on it, because there is no time scale on anything to do with bereavement.”
“Every individual is different”, he added.
Rio argued that it’s wrong for the Government to place a time limit on how long it takes parents to recover from bereavement. “One person may take six months. Another person may take 10 years”, he told the Radio 5 host.
“There isn’t a time when you can say ‘Yeah, I’m over it’. Putting a number on it is the wrong thing to do”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions told the Press Association: “We’re updating an old system that was based on the outdated assumption that a widowed parent relied on their spouse for income, and would never work themselves. This doesn’t reflect people’s lives today.
“The 18 month Bereavement Support Payment helps with the immediate costs when someone loses their spouse or civil partner and the support can help protect families from sudden financial difficulties.
They added: “Once the payments come to an end, there are means-tested benefits which can continue to support the bereaved, especially those who are bringing up children.
“The new payment is easier to claim, won’t be taxed and doesn’t affect the amount received from other benefits, helping those on the lowest incomes the most.”