COUNTY Durham residents are being reminded of the help and support available following the death of a loved one.

Following a particularly difficult year in which people have sadly lost family members due to coronavirus, Durham County Council is raising awareness of the welfare benefits that may be available to surviving partners, with its Welfare Rights Service on hand to offer advice and assistance to those needing support to claim.

A Bereavement Support Payment, which is not means-tested, can be claimed by those whose husband, wife or civil partner was under state pension age when they died and had paid some national insurance contributions in any year.

The payment is not affected by income, savings or lump-sums such as insurance payments or funeral cover and is made up of an initial lump sum followed by up to 18 monthly payments.

This can be claimed up to 21 months after a death, by phoning the Department for Work and Pensions Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469 or by downloading a BSP1 form from its website.

A recent High Court decision means that as well as those who were married to or in a civil partnership with the partner who has died, unmarried parents of children may also now qualify for a payment.

The council’s Welfare Rights Service would be able to advise on how to use this ruling or provide support to challenge a decision.

Meanwhile, residents who are receiving a means-tested benefit can also qualify for a Funeral Expenses Payment if they are taking responsibility for a funeral.

The council has written to all local funeral directors to highlight the available service. It is also including a ‘Benefits after death’ factsheet with all new death registration certificates.

Councillor Alan Shield, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: “Losing someone can be emotionally devastating, with people suffering both physical and emotional distress as bereavement affects everyone in different ways and it can be a very difficult time for loved ones and family members.

"The thought of filling in additional forms can often be overwhelming, however, our Welfare Rights Service is available to provide personal expert advice and to support people throughout this process.

“Many people who have lost a partner don’t realise that they may be able to claim the Bereavement Support Payment, irrespective of their income or savings. We do not want anyone to miss out and I would encourage everyone who might be in need of additional support, or anyone who has been widowed (losing their husband, wife or civil partner) in the last year, to please contact the team and ask for help.”

People should call the Welfare Rights Advice line on 03000 268968 or email