Cohabiting Couples: Story of the Campaign


Campaigning: Cohabiting Couples

After a decade-long campaign by WAY and a coalition of charities, from 9 February 2023 cohabiting parents with dependent children who need support following the death of their partner are now able to apply for bereavement benefits.

You can follow the history of the campaign through our updates below.

Read stories from members and supporters

February 2024

The deadline for bereaved parents to apply for retrospective payments was set for midnight on 8 February 2024. Going forward, cohabiting couples bereaved after that date are able to claim Bereavement Support Payment in the same way as their peers who are married or in a civil partnership.

February 2023

Bereavement Support Payments and Widowed Parent’s Allowance were extended to bereaved parents who weren’t married but were cohabiting with their partner when they died. Read more.

January 2023

The Bereavement Benefit Remedial Order was debated and passed in House of Lords and House of Commons.

December 2022

The Joint Committee on Human Rights submitted a report to the Government, including recommendations from WAY and the Childhood Bereavement Network.

October 2022

The Bereavement Benefit Remedial Order was laid before Parliament for 60 days.

August 2021

Three years after the Supreme Court ruling, the Mail on Sunday highlighted the lack of progress.

“Weaselling out of giving bereaved families their fair due is not a good look. It’s time to do the right thing and level up. Now.”

Rachel Rickard-Strauss, Mail on Sunday

July 2021

The Government introduced a draft Bereavement Benefit Remedial Order to Parliament outlining plans to extend payments to cohabiting parents.

February 2021

WAY members joined a letter writing campaign to their MPs calling for Government action, which was then featured in the news.

March 2020

WAY signed an open letter to the Government calling for urgent action to right the injustice still facing thousands of bereaved families.

February 2020

The Child Poverty Action Group won a landmark judgment at the High Court to extend the new Bereavement Support Payment to cohabiting couples.

October 2019

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, Chaired by the Rt Hon Frank Field, published a critical report that called for urgent action to rectify the legislation.

August 2019

One year after the Supreme Court judgment, WAY highlighted that no action had been taken.

June 2019

WAY members, including WAY Ambassador Kathryn Ford, gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

WAY members shared their stories with The Guardian.

January 2019

WAY member Lalena shared her story in the media.

“Adam always thought that being married was just a bit of paper, and that by ticking the 'common law' box on forms it meant we were basically married in the eyes of the law. How wrong he was, because there is no 'common law' when it comes to death.”

Lalena, WAY member

October 2018

WAY’s then Chair Georgia Elms delivered a letter to Downing Street, alongside Siobhan McLaughlin and Alison Penny from the Childhood Bereavement Network.

August 2018

Siobhan McLaughlin won the landmark Supreme Court case to extend Widowed Parent’s Allowance to non-married parents.

April 2017

In spite of campaigning by WAY and other charities, the Government voted in 2017 to ‘modernise’ the bereavement benefit system, slashing Widowed Parent’s Allowance and replacing it with Bereavement Support Payments, which are payable for just 18 months. However, unmarried couples were still not offered support under this new system.

2016

In January 2016, the Belfast High Court ruled that Siobhan McLaughlin should be able to claim benefits on behalf of her children, but this was overturned in December 2016 in the Appeal Court.

2011

WAY's then Chair Georgia Elms met with the Department for Work and Pensions and highlighted that non-married couples were not offered the same financial support as their married peers.