Extending the Transition Allowance: Advocating for Financial Support for Cohabitants

2023-10-31 05:35:00

From one day to the next, Christine and the two children aged 4 and 8 that she had with her partner, already overwhelmed by grief, were left without resources, or almost. “I had a salary, but I earned much less than my partner. I had to pay off the house loan, we had just bought a car. I had to pay a lawyer to obtain an annuity for my children, which they will receive when they turn 18. I had to pay for psychological counseling for them. If I had been entitled to the transition allowance, it would have helped me a lot.”

Living together, yes, but in what form?

But this transition allowance, provided for the surviving spouse who is not yet 49 years old (beyond this age, there is another system, the survivor’s pension), is only granted after a death in a married couple, and not to cohabitants ( legal or de facto). “Legal cohabitation is a scam! It should no longer exist,” complains Christine, whose situation today remains financially complicated: “We have to make choices.” Christine wants to testify so that others do not suffer the same misfortune.

A device that no longer corresponds to current society

The League of Families is also leading this fight. On the occasion of All Souls’ Day, she recalls that, “unlike married people, legal and de facto cohabitants are not entitled to any financial support when they lose their spouse”. “From one day to the next, following a death, parents must support their family with less income,” deplores the League, which calls for extending the benefit of the transition allowance to legal cohabitants and de facto cohabitants.

Crazy funeral prices: “It’s a real concern for bereaved families”

This transition allowance is temporary financial assistance that a widowed person under the age of 49 can request from the Federal Pensions Service. It can be combined with another income and is paid for 18 to 48 months following death (depending on the presence or absence of children and their ages). The amount of this allowance depends on the income of the deceased spouse. The average amount amounted to 1,100 euros gross in 2021. But “at present, if parents are legal or de facto cohabitants, they are not entitled to anything if their partner dies, even if they have been together for twenty years old and have three children. This situation does not take into account the current reality of Belgian families,” denounces Madeleine Guyot, general director of the League of Families. Indeed, according to Statbel, in Belgium, the distribution between marriage and legal cohabitation among people under 50 is 60%-40%.

The League of Families therefore calls on the government to open up the benefit of the transition allowance to legal cohabitants, but also to de facto cohabitants, following the example of what has been done in Brussels and in Flanders in terms of rights of succession.

Automate the granting of the transition allowance

In 2022, 208 legal cohabitants under the age of 50 who lost their partner were not entitled to the transition allowance, according to Statbel data, cited by the League. Figures to which should be added de facto cohabitants, about whom there is no data. “For each of these people, this allowance would have been much-needed support in a period marked, beyond the death itself, by a major administrative burden and financial difficulties. For social security, the budgetary impact of this aid to these 208 people would have been minimal,” continues Madeleine Guyot.

In July 2021, the Minister of Pensions announced an extension of the transition allowance to legal cohabitants. But in fact, it has not yet arrived. The League of Families believes that a decision on the matter cannot wait for the next government: “Each month that passes, new legal or de facto cohabiting parents lose their partners and are in great difficulty”.

The League also pleads for the allowance to be granted automatically, so that all those who are entitled to it benefit from it, and for the amount to be paid net of tax, so that families, already in a precarious situation, do not have to reimburse sums sometimes already spent.”

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