Government has failed to act a year on from Siobhan McLaughlins Supreme Court victory

Laura Banks

29 August 2019

Last year, our client Siobhan McLaughlin successfully challenged the Government’s decision to refuse her children bereavement benefits on grounds of her marital status in a landmark Supreme Court case.

In their Judgement, issued on 30th August 2018, the Supreme Court held that the UK Government’s refusal was unlawful discrimination which was incompatible with their human rights.  

Given the prevalence of cohabiting families, which are now the fastest growing family type in our society, the ruling has the potential to impact thousands of families. 17% of babies in Northern Ireland are born to cohabiting parents and this figure is even higher in other regions of the UK. The current bereavement rules make no provision for cohabiting families. This decision puts pressure on the Government to change the rules, but there has been no progress by the Government in the past year.  

Siobhan McLaughlin said:

“It saddens me to think of all the children who, just like mine, are being treated like they are worth less than children of married parents. They are being denied support when they need it most. I also think of all those parents going through what I did- the shock and shame of learning that their children are going to lose out and then the stress and worry of having to make ends meet as well as coping with loss of a partner. I hope that the Government will pay attention to this Judgement and bring our laws up to date.”

 Francis Hanna & Co Solicitor, Laura Banks, who represents Siobhan, said:

“We know that the current system is outdated. It is not fit for purpose and urgently needs reform. It is unacceptable and shameful that we now have a Government continuing to discriminate against children with this archaic policy, a year after the Supreme Court has held that doing so is unlawful. With each and every week that goes by whilst the government ignores this ruling, it is estimated that a further 5 families are turned down for support. The fact that the Government is continuing to force grieving families like Siobhan’s into poverty in spite of this Judgement is cruel, unjust and staggering.”

For any bereavement benefits or Judicial Review enquiry, please contact Laura Banks on 028 9024 3901 or email