Bereavement benefits must support unmarried couples too – reaction to today's Supreme Court ruling
Joint statement by the Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young
The Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young are very encouraged by today's Supreme Court ruling that an unmarried partner is entitled to her long term partner's pension. We hope to see this ruling extended to the payment of benefits to those bringing up children after their partner's death. Currently, cohabiting couples are not eligible for Widowed Parent's Allowance, and nor will they be eligible for the new Bereavement Support Payment being introduced on 6 April.
Alison Penny, the Childhood Bereavement Network’s Coordinator, said:
‘In life, parents have the same responsibilities towards their children whether they are married or cohabiting – why should it be different in death? At the moment, around one in five parents with children don’t get support if their long term partner dies, because they were living together but not married. Losing out on these vital payments, that could be worth around £46 per week to low income families, undermines their welfare just when they need help the most. Children have the same needs for food, shelter, love and attention, regardless of their parents’ marital status – and we hope to see this discrimination ended soon’.
‘Many couples don’t realise they wouldn’t be eligible, wrongly believing that living together brings the same legal benefits as if they were married. If today's ruling were extended to the payment of bereavement benefits, this would bring them into line with other parts of the benefits and tax systems so that they recognise unmarried couples, providing much needed support to thousands of families coming to terms with the death of one of the parents.’
Georgia Elms, Chairman, WAY Widowed and Young
Georgia Elms has been Chairman of WAY Widowed and Young for nearly five years. Georgia lost her husband Jon to meningitis in 2006 when she was just 36 years old. She found out the next day that she was pregnant with her second child.
‘Since my husband died in 2006, I’ve been receiving Widowed Parents’ Allowance to help support my two daughters in the absence of my husband Jon’s income. This is based on the National Insurance contributions Jon paid as a marketing consultant. I am entitled to this support until my youngest daughter leaves full-time education. This money has been put towards the extra childcare costs since Jon died as well as basic living costs. These regular payments have been a lifeline to me and many other members of WAY Widowed and Young. It is so unfair that people who weren’t married at the time of their partner’s death are not entitled to receive this necessary help at a time when they need it most. That’s why WAY Widowed and Young has been campaigning alongside other charities with the Childhood Bereavement Network to change this unfair policy.’
About Bereavement Support Payments
Widowed Parent’s Allowance, the safety net that parents get thanks to the National Insurance contributions their husband or wife made before they died, is being replaced by a new Bereavement Support Payment from 6 April 2017.
- Government shortening support for 91% of parents widowed after April
- 75% of widowed parents will be worse off under the new scheme
- Link with inflation will be broken
- Cohabiting couples still won’t get support for their grieving children
For more information visit: https://www.ncb.org.uk/news-opinion/news-highlights/government-cutting-time-widowed-parents-given-support