Open letter on bereavement benefits for cohabiting parents & their children


Image removed.18 months after Siobhan McLaughlin won her case for Widowed Parent’s Allowance in the Supreme Court, and the day after the Government was refused permission to appeal a similar case on Bereavement Support Payment, 18 organisations have come together to write an open letter to the Prime Minister urging change to the rules that deny bereavement benefits to unmarried, cohabiting parents.

The letter reads

We were pleased to hear your comments at Prime Minister’s Questions on 12 February 2020 about the ineligibility of bereaved parents who were cohabiting and their grieving children to bereavement benefits.

It meant a great deal to us – and to parents and children in this situation who are grieving the loss of their mother or father – to hear you describe it as an ‘injustice’. We are very encouraged by your undertaking to do what you can ‘to remedy this’.

We would therefore be grateful if you would work with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to bring forward legislation to extend eligibility to the new Bereavement Support Payment and the old Widowed Parent’s Allowance to cohabiting, unmarried parents, and to clarify the position for those previously deemed ineligible. As you know, the requirements for parents to have been married or in a civil partnership with their partner who died have been declared incompatible with human rights legislation, by the High Court and the Supreme Court, respectively. We respectfully ask that this be done quickly, as another five families with children fall foul of the current criteria each day.

We would be very pleased to support officials in working through the practical implications of these changes.

We look forward to supporting you and colleagues in levelling up for this group of vulnerable bereaved children and their surviving parents.

Yours sincerely,

Sharon Cornford
Chair, Association of Bereavement Service Coordinators

Philippa Graham and Wendy Ashton
Co-chairs, Association of Palliative Care Social Workers

Alison Penny
Director, Childhood Bereavement Network

Amy Woodhouse
Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, Children in Scotland

Steven Wibberley
CEO, Cruse Bereavement Care

Keith Robertson
CEO, Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland

Shelley Gilbert
Founder, Life Patron and Trustee, Grief Encounter

Tracey Bleakley
CEO, Hospice UK

John Birrell
Founder Chair, Scottish Working Group on Funeral Poverty

Georgia Elms
Vice Chair, Life Matters the taskforce for bereaved families

Chris James
Director of External Affairs, MND Association

Anna Feuchtwang
CEO, National Children’s Bureau

Satwat Rehman
Director, One Parent Families Scotland

Lindesay Mace
Down to Earth Acting Manager, Quaker Social Action

Annabel Howell
Chair, Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care

Sarah Gigg
Director of Nursing, Interim Director of Hospices, Sue Ryder

Rebecca Cooper
CEO, WAY Widowed and Young

Fergus Crow
CEO, Winston’s Wish

Read more about the campaign for bereavement benefits for cohabiting parents and their children.