People, whose partners had been in paid work, reported the largest income falls, mainly affecting those under pension age. Women with or without children were more at risk of financial decline than men and two in five women pensioners were in poverty immediately after bereavement.
While some of these experiences of poverty were short-lived, bereaved women were more likely to experience poverty lasting up to three years after the death. The number of women feeling financially worse off doubled from 24 per cent to 48 per cent. Comparable figures for men were 19 and 30 per cent respectively.
Based on its exploration of a wide range of economic, administrative, emotional, and psychological issues following the death of a partner, the study highlights the need for:
Better awareness of financial issuesFindings highlighted the financial consequences of the failure to make a will and the mistaken belief that 'common law marriage' provides legal rights.
The need to make financial preparations and decisions as a couple during earlier stages of their life together.
Easing adjustment to lossGrief has economic elements which impact on the grieving process and adjustment to loss. Managing money, and taking on new economic roles was hard for some bereaved people.
Government, employers and unions have opportunities to provide information at various key points during a person's life.
Reducing administrative and regulatory burdensResearchers found that the administrative requirements related to financial transitions caused a considerable practical and emotional burden.
Researchers highlight the need of processes to help people find information they need quicker, staff with skills for dealing with people in grief, and data sharing to reduce documentation required, would increase business efficiency as well as trust and compliance among service users.
Counselling support for 'economic components' of griefSupporting bereaved people who want to share feelings about their financial situation and new economic roles may ease adjustment to their loss.
Findings suggest that while it is not the role of bereavement counselling services to provide expertise in all the administrative and financial aspects of bereavement, they would benefit from greater awareness of the emotional impact of changed financial circumstances on the bereaved person.
Financial support for the bereavedImmediate financial demands facing bereaved people included paying for the funeral and housing costs including changes in home ownership and tenancy.
Researchers suggest that when policymakers review financial support for bereaved people, there should be thorough examination of entitlement, take-up and impact of bereavement benefits and social fund funeral expenses payments, and people's perceptions of these payments.
Researchers conclude that some financial difficulties following death of a partner can be prevented; others can be avoided. Policymaking must address the immediate circumstances of people experiencing bereavement. In the long term, enabling people to sustain paid employment throughout their working lives, occupational and private pensions, will help ensure an acceptable standard of living in retirement and protect people whose partner has died from financial hardship and economic decline.
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