UK – The UK government has announced changes to the Armed Forces pensions resulting in more benefits for widows and unmarried partners.

The new scheme, which will be introduced in April 2005 for new entrants, includes a 25% rise in widow(er)s’ pensions compared to the current scheme. The new scheme also extends dependants’ benefits to unmarried partners “where there is a substantial relationship”. Death-in-service benefits will be four times pensionable pay – increased from 1.5 times pay now.

A new compensation scheme will also be introduced in April for all injuries, illnesses and deaths due to service which occur on or after that date. Lump sum payments will, for the first time, be available for pain and suffering resulting from injury. A guaranteed income stream will be awarded for more serious injury where there is a loss of earnings capacity. Benefits will be extended to include unmarried partners here too.

Commenting on the new scheme, defence minister Ivor Caplin said: "These changes reflect key concerns raised during consultation and address the need to make proper provision for those who are left behind when personnel are killed in service."

Members of the Armed Forces will be given the option of remaining in the existing pension scheme or transferring to the new scheme.