Unmarried couples are to be given the right to claim bereavement benefits after the UK government finally agreed to a ruling on equality by the supreme court, it has been divulged.
The ruling means that grieving parents from unmarried couples will be able to claim up to £10,000 in bereavement support benefits for the first time, after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) chose not to appeal a court verdict.
It is believed that the U-turn will benefit thousands of parents who are not married or living in a civil partnership but were living together at the time of their partner’s death.
However, the change will only apply to “cohating” couples with children and the UK government has yet to confirm a date, arguing that it will not be decided until after a public consultation.
The landmark decision was forced on the DWP after mum-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin won a Supreme Court victory over the cruel policy in 2018, who has since demanded that the DWP set a date to enforce the change.
“Every day it’s another step and they’re letting down our children,” she said .
Commenting on how the Coronavirus pandemic has taken the lives of unmarried parents, she added: “How many children have lost a parent because of this horrendous virus?”
The 49-year-old, who lost her partner of 23 years to cancer, was denied bereavement benefits in 2014 and has fought bravely in the courts to ensure that no other unmarried parent is made to endure the same inequality and financial difficulty.
Spouses and civil partners can claim Bereavement Support or Widows Allowance but unmarried couples are not entitled to the same support in the event of their partner’s death.
Siobhan highlighted the possible situation that if the UK Prime Minister had died after being diagnosed with Covid-19 he could have left his partner Carrie caring for their newborn son Wilfred without any welfare support.
She told the Daily Mirror: “Boris Johnson had his brush with death when he had Covid-19.
“I wonder, when he was recovering, did he see the irony that his newborn son could quite easily have been in the same position as my four children?”
Bereavenent support is a one-off payment of up to £3,500, followed by £350 a month for 18 months.
In response to an MPs written queastion, Employment Minister Mims Davies said: “It is our intention to take forward a Remedial Order to remove the incompatibilities from the legislation governing Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment by extending these benefits to cohabitees with children.
“We intend to lay the Order before the House in due course.”
In response to the Minister’s comments, Marie Curie Director Simon Jones said: “No grieving family should be denied this crucial financial lifeline simply because of their marital status.
“They shouldn’t be left thinking their family is not worthy of support because they didn’t have a piece of paper.”
Campaigner Laura Rudd, who lost her partner to a heart attack said the changes are “long overdue” and called on the UK government to finalise them “as soon as possible”.
“It needs to finalised as soon as possible, so people in my position will not suffer at what is already the hardest time of their lives,” she said.
The UK government has also been urged to go further by including couples without children.