Cohabiting couples to benefit from changes to bereavement benefit rules

Claire Edgar

30 July 2021

On 15th July 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions announced that they plan to extend bereavement support to cohabiting couples with children. 

Previously, these payments would only be made if the couple had been married or in a civil partnership at the time of their spouse or civil partner’s death. The extension shall be made to include surviving cohabiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death.

It is understood that once approved by Parliament, the changes will apply retrospectively to the 30th August 2018.  This is the date that the Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision in Francis Hanna and Co Solicitors’ case of Siobhan McLaughlin.  In this case, the Supreme Court found that the government had unlawfully discriminated against Siobhan McLaughlin’s children by not paying bereavement benefits to them by reason of their parent’s marital status.

Our Claire Edgar commented:

“When Siobhan won her landmark case in August 2018, we had hoped that the government would be quick to act to right the wrong done to so many families by a policy which clearly discriminated against children.  Whilst it disappointing that is has taken close to 3 years for active steps to be taken to redress this issue, we are delighted that long awaited changes have finally been made to bereavement benefit rules.

We are pleased that the decision has been made to backdate payments to Siobhan’s children and more than 22,000 families across the UK. This is a recognition that children of cohabiting parents are no less deserving than any other children particularly at a time of bereavement and loss.”

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