Unmarried mother to receive widows’ bereavement benefits, Supreme Court rules in landmark ruling

An unmarried mother has won a landmark Supreme Court case to access widowed parent’s allowance for her children after she was denied bereavement payments following her partner’s death.

Siobhan McLaughlin, 46, was initially refused the benefit payments because she was not married to her partner, who died of cancer in January 2014.

Campaigners have called this ruling “hugely important” and are now calling on ministers to ensure that all children who experience the death of a parent are supported financially on the same basis as offspring whose parents are married.

Ms McLaughlin, who has four children with her partner, initially won a case after claiming unlawful discrimination based on her marital status, but that ruling was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.

She said her case was never about her but about justice for her grieving children.

Ms McLaughlin accused the government of treating them as “insignificant.”

The court’s president, Lady Hale, said, “The allowance exists because of the responsibilities of the deceased and the survivor towards their children.

“Those responsibilities are the same whether or not they are married to or in a civil partnership with one another. The purpose of the allowance is to diminish the financial loss caused to families with children by the death of a parent.

“That loss is the same whether or not the parents are married or in a civil partnership with one another.”

Ms McLaughlin’s solicitor Laura Banks, from Francis Hanna & Co, said, “This is an extremely significant victory, not only for Siobhan and her children but for thousands of families throughout the UK.

“An estimated 2,000 families each year are turned away from bereavement benefits because of this legislation which the Supreme Court has today clearly stated is unjustifiably discriminatory.

“We are absolutely delighted with this landmark decision and the tremendous impact it should have on the lives of families in times of great need. We consider that it finally puts an end to this shameful, almost Victorian discrimination.

“We urge the government to act without delay to implement the required changes to the law for the benefit of bereaved families such as Siobhan’s.”

 

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