Belfast Telegraph

Antrim mum 'saddened' by lack of progress on death benefits since Supreme Court ruling

Siobhan McLaughlin.
Siobhan McLaughlin.

A Co Antrim mum who won a landmark court case over bereavement benefits has said she is "saddened" no progress has been made since her case concluded.

Siobhan McLaughlin was denied the widowed parent's allowance because she was not married to the father of her two children.

In 2018, she successfully challenged the decision not to award her a £2,000 bereavement lump sum.

But the Armoy woman has not received any payment a year on from the conclusion of the case.

Ms McLaughlin had four children with groundsman John Adams but, despite living together for 20 years, she was denied the money when he died from cancer in 2014.

Her application for a widowed parent allowance, which could have meant up to £118 per week, was also refused.

Following the ruling in August 2018 that denying the benefit to unmarried parents breached human rights law, the government said it is "actively considering options".

Ms 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, and to 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 my partner.

"I hope the Government will pay attention to this judgment and bring our laws up to date," she said.

The ruling in August 2018 has the potential to impact thousands of cohabiting families - the fastest growing family type in our society, Ms McLaughlin's solicitor said.

"We know that the current system is outdated. It is not fit for purpose and urgently needs reform," said Laura Banks, of Francis Hanna & Co.

"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 five 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."

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was considering options following the ruling.

“We are committed to supporting people during bereavement and have widened the support available. This is in addition to help provided for co-habiting couples through the wider welfare system," said a spokesperson.

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