Raising her two sons alone after her husband died unexpectedly has led to a Bishop’s Tachbrook woman campaigning to maintain financial support for parents who could face the same circumstances.
Beth Phillips’s husband Duncan died aged 39 of an unbeknownst heart condition while he was playing football at St Nicholas Park in April 2013.
She is now campaigning against a law which will mean that for those who are widowed on or after April 6 this year, widowed parent’s allowance (WPA) will cease only 18 months after the death of their spouse.
Her eldest son Sam, eight, wrote a letter to Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White which was read out during a debate in the House of Common but members still voted in favour of the proposals, with more voting to take place.
Mrs Phillips, 40, said: “Me and Sam won’t be affected by these changes.
“My allowance will be honoured in its current format, which means I will receive it until my youngest son leaves full-time education but many of the people that these reforms will affect – those widowed on or after April 6th this year, do not yet know that they are going to need support.
“Because these people are mostly unaware of the financial implications of the proposed Government reforms, and the knock-on effect that they will have on the well-being of their bereaved children, those of us who have already been widowed are trying to raise awareness on their behalf.”
Mrs Phillips has now written to Caroline Noakes MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Welfare Delivery, to help her understand a bit more about what it is like to be a widowed parent and the huge difference WPA makes for them.
She highlights how she had to leave her job as a teacher for two-and-a- half years after her husband’s death and that, despite this, she has had to work harder than she ever did to run a home on her own.
She has also described how she struggled to find emotional support through counselling for her sons, of whom Tom - now seven - was only three when Duncan died, and the difficulties she has faced in splitting her time between working and looking after the boys.
In her letter, Mrs Phillips said she is able to get by with the WPA she is given on top of her income and that it allows her to provide her sons with similar life experiences that they had when ‘Team Phillips’ was still a team of four.
She said that helping the boys to enjoy life as much as possible is one of her main aims and that this distracts them from their sadness over their loss.
She added: “I hear frequently about widowed friends for whom the current allowance helps to keep them afloat.
“My widowed friends who were not married, and, therefore, have been ineligible to claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance, often struggle more financially.
“The reforms will save the Government many millions of pounds, whilst causing ‘great panic and worry’ to newly-widowed parents, as even my eight-year-old son can understand.”
Emails to lobby the Prime Minister about the changes to the WPA can be sent via this link
Support for those who are under 51 and have lost a spouse can be found http://www.widowedandyoung.org.uk/here