MPs pressure Tories over bereavement benefit ‘injustice’ after Supreme Court ruling

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, an influential cross-party group of MPs, has launched a follow-up inquiry into what it has described as a “profound injustice” in the availability of bereavement benefits.

In 2016, a report by the Committee expressed serious concerns that the cruel system denies bereaved unmarried parents the same support for their children as married couples.

The report also warned that Social Funeral Fund Payments (SFFP) no longer covered the cost of a simple funeral, and called on the UK Government to set SFFP at the cost of a simple funeral.


Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd MP. Photo: Chris McAndrew [CC BY 3.0]

It also suggested that bereavement benefits should be paid over 18 months rather than 12, and that they should extended to bereaved parents who were not married to their partner.

Six months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the current system of bereavement benefits is incompatible with human rights law, as its discriminates against the both the unmarried parent and their children.

At the time of that ruling, Committee Chair Frank Field said: “The victims of this archaic policy are children, and the reform we suggested in 2016 might have cost nothing.

“It is quite incredible how the Government continues to resist righting this profound injustice, dismissing the Committee’s recommendations two years ago, fighting a grieving single mum all the way to the Supreme Court and even now, every day, telling another 5 bereaved parents that, because they weren’t married, their children will be penalised.

“The Select Committee will be taking up the cudgels to see this one family’s victory spread to all eligible families.”

Despite the court’s ruling the Government has yet to act to bring its policy into line, prompting the Work and Pensions Select Committee to re-open its inquiry.

The inquiry will look at how the new Bereavement Support Payment, which replaced Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance in 2017, is working in practice – with the aim of increasing pressure on the UK Government to act on the Supreme Court’s ruling.

MPs on the Committee will also be looking at what progress has been made on its previous recommendations to tackle funeral affordability.

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