The Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young are deeply disappointed by yesterday’s Court of Appeal ruling in Belfast that a mother bringing up children alone after her partner’s death should not get bereavement benefits.
The judgement overturned a previous ruling in the High Court that the mother’s ineligibility for Widowed Parent’s Allowance discriminated against her on the grounds of her marital status.
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 are very disappointed that yesterday’s ruling continues this discrimination’.
‘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. This ruling could have brought bereavement benefits 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 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. She has been Chairman of WAY Widowed and Young for nearly five years.
‘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.’
For a briefing on this issue, please visit http://www.childhoodbereavementnetwork.org.uk/media/53878/Bereavement-benefits-and-cohabiting-parents-June-2016.pdf