William Eichler 30 August 2018

Court rules bereavement benefit restrictions breaches human rights

Court rules bereavement benefit restrictions breaches human rights image

Denying bereavement benefits to unmarried, cohabiting partners with children is incompatible with human rights law, court rules.

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a bereaved mother who was not married to her children’s father and so could not, according to the Government’s eligibility criteria, receive the Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

This allowance is intended to provide for children in the event of a parent’s death. However, it can only be claimed by a husband, wife, or civil partner.

Widows Parent’s Allowance was replaced last year by Bereavement Support Payment but the restrictions are the same.

The case relates to County Antrim mother-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin. When her partner John died after 23 years together, she was not eligible for the Widowed Parent’s Allowance because she and John had not married.

The Supreme Court ruled that the current policy is a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Alison Penny, director of the Childhood Bereavement Network, welcomed the court’s decision and pointed out that parents make the same National Insurance contributions whether they are married or cohabiting.

‘We pay tribute to Siobhan for having the courage to bring this test case and improve the situation for thousands of grieving children and their surviving parents,’ said Ms. Penny.

‘While she brought her case in Northern Ireland, it has implications for the rest of the UK where the wording of the eligibility criteria is the same. If current policy is in breach of the Human Rights Act in Northern Ireland, it must be in breach in the rest of the UK too.

‘We estimate that every year, over 2,000 families like Siobhan’s face the double hit of one parent dying, and the other parent realising that they and the children are not eligible for bereavement benefits.

‘And with cohabiting couples the fastest growing family type in the UK, the problem would only have got worse. On average, a cohabiting parent earning £10,000 a year lost out by over £15,000 over the children’s childhood if their partner died and they couldn’t claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Work & Pensions said: 'We will consider the court’s ruling carefully.

'Widowed Parent’s Allowance was a contributory benefit, and it has always been the case that inheritable benefits derived from another person’s contributions should be based on the concept of legal marriage or civil partnership.

'This ruling doesn’t change the current eligibility rules for receiving bereavement benefits, which are paid only to people who are married or in a civil partnership.'

SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Service Director – Development & Regulation

West Berkshire Council
Up to £96,585 per annum
We are looking for a candidate with the passion for place making and a successful track record in leading and developing large multi-service teams.  Newbury, Berkshire
Recuriter: West Berkshire Council

Mayoralty & Business Manager

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£41,292 - £50,034
The Mayoralty & Business Manager will be responsible for maintaining the reputation of both Mayoralties and promoting a positive image of... London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Joint Assistant Director - Communities and Wellbeing

Babergh & Mid Suffolk
£75,000
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are at the forefront of joint working and are a progressive award-winning partnership Ipswich, Suffolk
Recuriter: Babergh & Mid Suffolk

Financial Case Management Officer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£22,627 - £24,491 per annum
The Financial Case Management Officer will sit within the Adult Social Care, Service Improvement & Efficiency service and will be responsible for... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Social Worker - Family Support and Protection

Essex County Council
£32065 - £43839 per annum + + Free On-Site Parking % Local Gov Pension
This position is open to Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs) and Experienced Social Workers. The starting salary for a NQSW is £28,592 per annum a England, Essex, Basildon
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue