Celebrating campaign success: Laura's Story

January 2023

Following the news that MPs finally approved new legislation that paved the way for Bereavement Support Payments and Widowed Parent’s Allowance to be paid to thousands of cohabiting couples who were denied the payments because they weren’t married, we asked some of our members what this change in the legislation means to them.

Laura's Story

Laura and her son

York-based WAY member Laura has been campaigning to extend bereavement support to unmarried parents since her partner Nigel died of a heart attack in February 2020, leaving her to bring up their 2-year-old son Noah on her own. Laura set up a campaign group called Equality in Grief and a petition that gathered more than 100,000 signatures…

How does it feel for you knowing that the Bereavement Benefits Remedial Order has finally been approved by MPs?

Relief – although it should not have taken as long as it has done. For far too long, people have been left to struggle. I am really relieved that this help is coming into force, meaning those finding themselves in this unenviable position will have a little less to worry about thanks to all the hard work of charities such as WAY Widowed and Young, the Childhood Bereavement Network and all the others involved – too numerous to mention.  

How does it feel to have your relationship validated in this way?

For me, it was never about validating my relationship with Nigel. I knew the importance of our relationship and did not need a bit of paper to confirm this. For me, it's the long overdue support for people who are cohabiting. 

In 2021, 3.6 million people were confirmed as cohabiting – a rise of 144%. This is simply a piece of legislation that is catching up with the way people are choosing to live their lives now and it's good to see that finally the Government are recognising this changing way of life. 

Are you happy with the Remedial Order and what you stand to receive in the way of back payments?

I am pleased that this support is now available to people, especially given the cost of living crisis at the moment. I often reflect back on losing Nigel and the huge negative impact it had on my son’s and my life. It is a small silver lining to think that, in losing Nigel, it gave me the strength to have helped contribute in a small way to getting this legislation changed. 

With the cost-of-living crisis, the [back payments] will provide some much-needed stability. In these uncertain times, you feel it even more acutely as a lone parent with only one income, trying to balance everything financially by yourself. 

Do you have any other advice for people standing up for injustice, as you have done?

I am often asked this by my students, as I am a teacher, and I will share the same thing I tell them. Don’t let anyone tell you that that’s the way things are, and you will just have to accept it, as was said to me when I was trying to register Nigel’s death and queried why I couldn't register him as my partner. 

This, as it turns out, was the very first of many issues I encountered being an unmarried and bereaved partner. I remember feeling utterly enraged by it all and felt consumed by the real sense of injustice – as if things hadn’t felt difficult enough, this felt like the icing on a cake no one asked for in the first place!

If it feels like inequality and injustice, it probably is, and you’ll be amazed just how much support you can muster if you just have the strength to get it started. That’s all you need – that initial spark to get things moving. We should not accept things if they feel wrong, as this did.  

I have been, and continue to be, constantly amazed by the support this cause has wrought from a whole wide range of people from a cross-section of society. I will be eternally grateful to family, friends and WAY for all the support they have put behind this. 

Read Laura’s January 2023 interview with the BBC 

Latest update

On 30 September 2023, WAY member Laura shared her story with BBC Radio 4’s MoneyBox to explain the difference the payments had made to her, particularly during the cost-of-living crisis: “It’s made my life just that little bit easier,” she said. “A lot of people are facing this crisis and it’s particularly hard when you are a lone parent family.”

Laura also reminded listeners that this support is based on the National Insurance contributions her late partner made – it’s basically the pension that he never got to draw down:

“This is support that you’re entitled to,” she said. “And I really want to emphasise that because some people don’t feel they should be entitled to it. You absolutely should.”

Listen to the full interview (around 10 minutes into the show).