Suffering is heaped on bereaved children

Laura Banks

04 November 2019

Suffering is heaped on bereaved children, concludes Commons Report as Government inaction on Supreme Court Judgement “risable”.

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee has published a damming report dealing with the Government’s failure to rectify the law following our client Siobhan McLaughlin’s land mark Supreme Court decision in August 2018. The judgement held that not paying bereavement benefits to cohabiting families was unlawful and incompatible with human rights law, yet the government has essentially ignored it with no changes to the policy having been made since the decision was issued.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “Cohabiting families have been waiting 14 months for the Government to make up their mind following their defeat in the Supreme Court. It is risible for Ministers to claim that ‘cohabitation is a complex concept’ while applying it when it suits them in the rest of the benefits system. All the while, suffering is heaped on suffering for bereaved children. The Government has allowed this terrible injustice to go on far too long: it must make it right, and urgently.”

Francis Hanna & Co Solicitor Laura Banks, who represents Siobhan McLaughlin, said “We welcome and agree with this report in its entirety. It is quite incredible that our Government is continuing to knowingly apply an unlawful, discriminatory policy to bereaved parents and their children, without having made any steps to rectify it. Both for our client and the many thousands of families affected. Bereaved children are some of the most vulnerable members of our society and deserve, like everyone else, to be treated in a way that complies with the law. One wonders how many more thousands of families will be pushed into poverty and indeed have to mount their own legal challenges before the Government will do the right thing.”

The report  recommends a range of options for the government including making children directly eligible for bereavement benefits and recognising cohabitation in a similar way to elsewhere in the benefits system.

If you are affected by this issue, in particular your family has been turned down for the new Bereavement Support Payment, contact Laura Banks, Francis Hanna on 02890243901 or email