Siobhan McLaughlins Supreme Court judgement to apply to new Bereavement Support Payment

07 February 2020

The High Court in England has released a judgement today which reaffirms that to refuse bereavement benefits to children based on their parents' marital status is unlawful discrimination which is “manifestly unjustified”.

The case, which was brought by two fathers and their children, who had been turned down for the new higher rate bereavement support payments when their partners, the children’s mother’s, died. The case was similar to our client Siobhan McLaughlin’s case, but related to the new Bereavement Support Payment system, whereas our client’s case related to it’s predecessor, the Widowed Parents Allowance.

Mr Justice Holman concluded that there is “no more justification for the discrimination in relation to HRBSP than there was in relation to WPA, and the same resounding answer which the Supreme Court gave in McLaughlin applies also to this case.” He found that “the policy argument and legitimate aim of encouraging and promoting marriage or civil partnership is no different and no stronger in the present case than it was in McLaughlin. It did not sway the Supreme Court, and it seems to me a wholly unconvincing reason for discriminating in the case of children and entitlement to HRBSP. The child cannot make the choice between marriage and cohabitation.”

He added:In my view, there is manifestly no reasonable justification whatsoever for giving the additional “cash boost” (the extra £5,500 maximum) which it is recognised that families with a child or children need after the death of a parent and which the HRBSP provides to families based on marriage or civil partnership, yet denying it to those based on cohabitation. The impact of the death upon the child or children, and the financial and other needs of the children, are precisely the same.”

Our Solicitor, Laura Banks, who represents Siobhan McLaughlin, commented: “This case serves as a timely reminder that the Government has failed to right the wrong which the Supreme Court declared unlawful, more than 18 months ago. It is extraordinary that they have fought more grieving families through the Courts in defence of this archaic policy. Whilst it is pleasing that yet again, this profound injustice has been declared unlawful and unjustified, one also wonders when the Government is going to actually comply with the law and bring the criteria up to date, for the benefit of grieving children.”

For any bereavement benefit or social justice query, contact Laura Banks on 028 9024 3901.