Bereavement benefits should support unmarried couples too - reaction today's Court of Appeal ruling

Joint statement by the Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young

The Childhood Bereavement Network and WAY Widowed & Young are deeply disappointed by today’s Court of Appeal judgement in Belfast that a mother bringing up children alone after her partner’s death should not get bereavement benefits.

The judgement overturned a previous ruling in the High Court that the mother’s ineligibility for Widowed Parent’s Allowance discriminated against her on the grounds of her marital status.

Alison Penny, the Childhood Bereavement Network’s Coordinator, said:

‘In life, parents have the same responsibilities towards their children whether they are married or cohabiting – why should it be different in death? At the moment, around one in five parents with children don’t get support if their long term partner dies, because they were living together but not married. Losing out on these vital payments, that could be worth around £46 per week to low income families, undermines their welfare just when they need help the most. Children have the same needs for food, shelter, love and attention, regardless of their parents’ marital status – and we are very disappointed that today’s ruling continues this discrimination’.

‘Many couples don’t realise they wouldn’t be eligible, wrongly believing that living together brings the same legal benefits as if they were married. This ruling could have brought bereavement benefits into line with other parts of the benefits and tax systems so that they recognise unmarried couples, providing much needed support to thousands of families coming to terms with the death of one of the parents.’

Georgia Elms, Chairman, WAY Widowed and Young

Georgia Elms lost her husband Jon to meningitis in 2006 when she was just 36 years old. She found out the next day that she was pregnant with her second child. She has been Chairman of WAY Widowed and Young for nearly five years.

“Since my husband died in 2006, I’ve been receiving Widowed Parents’ Allowance to help support my two daughters in the absence of my husband Jon’s income. This is based on the National Insurance contributions Jon paid as a marketing consultant. I am entitled to this support until my youngest daughter leaves full-time education. This money has been put towards the extra childcare costs since Jon died as well as basic living costs. These regular payments have been a lifeline to me and many other members of WAY Widowed and Young. It is so unfair that people who weren’t married at the time of their partner’s death are not entitled to receive this necessary help at a time when they need it most. That’s why WAY Widowed and Young has been campaigning alongside other charities with the Childhood Bereavement Network to change this unfair policy.”


For a briefing on this issue, please visit

For more information, please contact:

  • National Children’s Bureau’s media office on 0207 843 6047 or email [email protected]. For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.
  • WAY Widowed and Young press officer [email protected]

About the Childhood Bereavement Network
The Childhood Bereavement Network, based at the National Children’s Bureau, is the coordinating hub for services across the UK that offer direct support to children and young people who have been bereaved of a parent or sibling. Our members find creative and therapeutic ways for children and their families to begin to understand what has happened and to live with and beyond their loss. For more information and a directory of ‘open access’ services, visit

About the National Children’s Bureau
The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues. For more information visit

About WAY Widowed and Young
WAY Widowed and Young is the only national charity in the UK for men and women aged 50 or under when their partner died. Founded in 1997, WAY now has almost 2,000 members across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The charity provides peer-to-peer support to young widowed men and women – married or not, with or without children – as they adjust to life after the death of their partner. Find out more at