During the economic downturn, my Department protected primary social welfare rates and in recent years, as the economy recovered, the Government has concentrated resources in improving the core rates of payments, particularly for pensioners. Abolishing the bereavement grant provided a significant annual saving and allowed my Department to protect other core social welfare payments such as the State pension.
The number of bereavement grant claims in 2013 was 23,716, and this represented an increase of approximately 4% on 2012. Based on a similar yearly increase each year since 2013, it is estimated that the number of bereavement grant claims that might arise in 2018, were the scheme to be re-introduced, would be in the region of 28,854, and the number would be expected to increase in future years. Accordingly, if there were 28,854 such grants made in 2018, at a rate of €850 each, the cost would be approx. €24.53 million.
Any decision to reinstate the Bereavement Grant would have to be considered in the context of overall budgetary negotiations.
It is worth noting that there are a range of supports available for people following bereavement which provide more significant support than the grant. These include weekly paid widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner’s (contributory and non-contributory) pensions, which are based on contributions or a means test, and a once-off widowed or surviving civil partner grant of €6,000 where there is a dependent child. A number of social welfare payments, including State pension, continue in payment for six weeks following a death. In Budget 2016, the Government increased the payment after death period to 12 weeks for carer’s allowance. Guardian payments are available where someone cares for an orphaned child. A special funeral grant of €850 is paid where a person dies because of an accident at work or occupational disease.
Additionally, the supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme provides assistance to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. Under the SWA scheme, the Department of Social Protection may make a single exceptional needs payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off and unforeseen expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet from their weekly income, which may include help with funeral and burial expenses.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.