Kathy's Story: Cohabiting Couples Campaign

February 2023

WAY Ambassador Kathy Ford lost her partner Keith in November 2018 to a sudden heart attack. They had been together for 19 years and had two sons together. In June 2019, Kathy gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee explaining how the lack of support for non-married couples had impacted her family. She has been campaigning on this issue ever since Keith died and received the Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) back payments she was entitled to on 14 February.

Here’s Kathy’s story…


Kathy and family

I am pleased that the legislation is finally being changed but I feel sad that any of us needed to challenge this in the first place. In the 2000s, we should not have to be fighting for cohabiting couples’ rights – especially as the Government has recognised cohabitation while people are alive and withing the benefits system. 

For me, it was never about getting validation for my relationship with Keith. It was about the boys’ relationship with their dad. A father is a father regardless of their parents’ marital status. He was the person who held them at birth and supported them both emotionally and financially until he died. 

"We were living as a family unit and our sons deserved the same recognition as married couples’ children."

I think the Government has felt they had no option but to change the law, because of the legal challenge from Siobhan McLaughlin and the Child Poverty Action Group, but this has not been done in good grace.

I think the payments should have been backdated further to 2017 – when the system changed from Widowed Parent’s Allowance to Bereavement Support Payment. And retrospective payments should also have been paid with interest too.

When I receive my Bereavement Support Payment, it will pay the final amount outstanding on our mortgage. The house is up for sale but this will allow me to now choose if I want to sell or remove the house from the market and maybe take in a lodger. I will also put some of the money towards paying my credit cards that we have used to buy the boys computers for university. 

My advice for other campaigners would be: don’t take no for an answer, expect a long battle with plenty of knock backs because they are hoping you will give up. Read and research every piece of information you can. Find and ask for help from other organisations, charities or solicitors. Someone will also give you the advice you need if you keep on persevering. Good luck!  

UPDATE:

10 February 2023

Kathy filled out the application from for Bereavement Support Payment and is waiting to hear back from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

"Filling in the application was emotionally difficult," she said. "You expect to feel elated after working so hard to get to this point but the reality is that it stirs up all those memories of applying the first time and the pain you felt in those early days."

Kathy received a confirmation email from the DWP to say they have received her application and she was waiting to hear the next steps. 

14 February 2023

Kathy received the retrospective Bereavement Support Payments she was entitled to directly into her bank account.

“First thing I wanted to do was clear off the mortgage, as I brought my son Ollie home from hospital 22 years ago on Valentine’s Day. It felt a bit like coming full circle.”

Kathy has also been sharing her story in the media:

The Mirror

Liverpool Echo

Chronicle Live 

 

25 January 2024

Kathy continues to campaign for those you have not applied, before the fast approaching deadline of the 8th February 2024.

"It was surprisingly easy. When I'd applied in the past it was paper based, but now it is all online. The only information I didn't have to hand was my partner's National Insurance number. It literally took less than ten minutes.

The Mirror
Find out if you could be eligible and how you can apply by visiting our campaign pages.