What to Do When A Child Dies
Information on what to do after the loss of a child
Last updated: 1 September 2017
If you are reading this because your child or baby has died, we are so very sorry for your loss. We hope the articles in our Help & Resources pages will be useful to you and the loved ones who are supporting you.
Although it can be difficult to think about, there are a number of agencies that you may need to notify about your child’s death. A family member or a good friend may be able to help you to contact and notify the people you need to tell.
Here are details about some of the agencies you may have to contact within the next few weeks or so. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find links to articles about help, bereavement support and ways through grief for parents and families who have lost a child.
Registering your child’s death
Whenever anyone dies, their death need to be registered. We explain how to do this this in more detail, in our guide to registering a death and this is something that either parent can do. When a baby dies shortly after they were born, both their birth and their death are registered. Stillbirths, the term used when a child is delivered 24 weeks or later into a mother’s pregnancy, are also registered.
Contacting the Child Benefit Office
If you are claiming Child Benefit, the Child Benefit Office is one of the organisations that needs to be notified, when a child dies. Generally, Child Benefit payments will continue to be paid up to eight weeks after a child has died, but parents or guardians are asked to notify the Child Benefit Office as soon as they are able. This could help prevent the distress of overpayments being claimed back by the agency, at a later date.
Although Child Benefit payments usually continue for eight weeks after the date of a child’s death, the circumstances may differ slightly if your son or daughter’s 20th birthday falls within this period of time. In such cases, Child Benefit payments cease from the Monday following their 20th birthday.
If your child was newborn when he or she died, you may still claim and receive eight weeks of Child Benefit payments. If this is something that would be helpful, you’ll need to apply within three months of your baby’s death. Unfortunately it won’t be possible for you to claim this, if you are the parent of a baby who was stillborn.
Letting the Tax Credit Office know
Another authority that may need to be notified if your child has died is the Tax Credit Office. This is because it may need to adjust your claim if your family receives Tax Credits.
When a child dies, the Tax Credit Office asks that it is informed about the situation within one month of a death. This is to ensure that families receive the money they are entitled to and also help avoid the distress of any credits being claimed back by the office at a later date.
Tax credits continue to be paid to families for up to eight weeks after a child dies and bereaved parents of newborn babies can also register a claim for tax credits covering this period. The Tax Credit Office enquiry line will help you find out more about making a claim. Unfortunately you will be unable to apply, if your baby died before he or she was born.
Sure Start Maternity Grants
Bereaved parents of newborns who qualify for the Sure Start Maternity Grant, are entitled to receive this payment.
It's a one-off payment of £500 available to parents of first-born babies who are already claiming certain benefits. The grant is also sometimes paid to parents who already have children but are expecting a multiple birth, such as twins. To make your claim, you need to register within three months of the day your baby was born.
If your child had a Child Trust Fund
Between 2002 and 2011, the Government awarded newborn babies a Child Trust Fund of between £250 and £500, as a locked-up savings legacy for when they turn 18 years old.
This forms part of a child’s estate – the legal definition of the belongings someone leaves when they die. Unless they were married, a child’s estate is inherited by their next-of-kin, most usually their parents. To access the funds and close this, or any other savings accounts your child has, the bank or building society will ask you to provide details, which will include a copy of your child’s death certificate.
Child Trust Funds were set up with the intention of providing children with a small sum to spend or continue to save as they wish, when they turn 18. When a child is terminally ill, it’s possible for them to access their own savings so they can do this. If you are the registered contact for the savings account, HM Revenue and Customs has a, terminal illness early access form through which you can help your child apply to receive their savings.
About bereavement, maternity and paternity leave and pay
When a newborn dies, or a baby is stillborn, his or her bereaved parents are entitled to paid full maternity or paternity leave. Currently, however, it is at the discretion of employers to offer employees paid (or unpaid) time off from work for parents coping with the death of an older child or other loved one. Bereaved working parents and some MPs have been campaigning for statutory bereavement pay to support parents when a child dies.
If you are finding it difficult to cope, you may be able to receive Statutory Sick Pay for time off work. Although Government guidelines do not class bereavement as an “incapacity”, they suggest that employers consider the relationship of the bereaved and the shock, anxiety and depression suffered as a result of someone’s death as an illness that’s an acceptable reason for time off work.
Employers may also consider granting compassionate leave, if you have lost a baby due to a late miscarriage. You may also be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay covering time off to recover.
Parents who were expecting a baby who died before the 24th week of a pregnancy, are not able to claim maternity or paternity benefits. If you have already made claims for a Sure Start Maternity Grant or Maternity Allowance, you’ll need to get in touch with Jobcentre Plus to update them about your situation.
There are many charities and organisations that provide counselling, listening services, helplines and peer-to-peer support, for parents and families who have lost a child. You can find more details and links to them, here.
If you are supporting someone who has been bereaved, you may find these pages helpful. In them, you can read more about the ways you can help someone who is grieving the loss of a child, grandchild, brother or sister.
Everyone grieves differently, but some people find that it can be helpful to understand bereavement better, as a way of coping with the emotions that they, or someone they are supporting, is going through. Bereavement experts and psychologists have developed different 'models' of grief, which you can explore in this section of our Help & Resources pages.