Thousands of grieving cohabiting families with children to be made eligible for bereavement benefits

January 2023

Cohabiting Couple campaign image

Yesterday evening (Wednesday, 25 January), MPs finally approved new legislation that will pave the way for bereavement benefits to be paid to thousands of cohabiting parents. WAY Widowed and Young has been campaigning on this issue – alongside a coalition of charities – for more than a decade and is delighted that an estimated 21,000 bereaved families stand to benefit from this campaign.

  • Around 1,800 parents a year currently miss out on these payments because they were living with but not married to or in a civil partnership with their partner when they died.

  • According to our friends at the Childhood Bereavement Network, more than 21,000 families stand to be eligible for back payments going back to 30 August 2018. 

After many years of delay, the Government finally introduced a Bereavement Benefits Remedial Order to correct the injustice. Last Tuesday, the House of Lords approved the Order, and yesterday the House of Commons did the same. 

WAY’s Chief Executive Stephanie Patrick said: 

“We want to say a huge thank you to all the WAY members and tireless campaigners who have brought the cases on behalf of affected bereaved families and who shared their stories over the many years to highlight this injustice, as well as their legal teams and everyone who has signed petitions, written to their MPs and worked tirelessly over more than a decade to help make this change happen. It’s a fantastic achievement.”

Lifetime WAY member Siobhan McLaughlin, who successfully challenged the denial of bereavement benefits following the death of John, her partner of 23 years, said:

“I am delighted beyond my wildest dreams that the Government has finally taken the steps needed to right this injustice and am so proud of everyone who played a role in making that happen.

We all played our part for all of those children who have had the misfortune to have lost a parent and who weren’t able to claim support for all those years. Hopefully, we have made life a little easier for thousands of bereaved families. And I will be able to look my four children in the eye and say, ‘I tried to ease your hurt’.” 

Georgia Elms, WAY’s Campaign Ambassador, said:

“We are very pleased to see that the Government has finally taken action to right this injustice but we are sad that it has taken so long to get to this point. Many of the families who will now be eligible for back payments have endured years of financial hardship and lack of recognition as they waited for these changes."

What happens next?

When it comes into force, the Remedial Order will change the criteria so that, going forward, newly bereaved cohabiting parents will be able to claim the same entitlement as those who were married or in a civil partnership. 

We are urgently seeking updates from the Department for Work and Pensions Charities (DWP) about how and when people can make their claims.

Reaching eligible families with news of the changes will be crucial. Those eligible for a back payment will have a 12-month window within which to get the full amount they are entitled to.

About bereavement benefits

Find out more about the Bereavement Benefits (Remedial) Order here.

For more information on the changes, visit the ​​​​​​​Childhood Bereavement Network website.

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