Supreme Court rules on Widowed Parent's Allowance


Widowed Parent's Allowance (WPA) is a weekly benefit for widows, widowers, or surviving civil partners, who were bereaved before 6 April 2017.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to not extend this to unmarried couples.

The hearing was initiated by Siobhan McLaughlin and her four children. Her husband died from cancer in 2014. However, the family was refused bereavement benefits because the parents were neither married nor in a civil partnership.

The ruling stated that not extending WPA to unmarried couples is incompatible with human rights law.

The Supreme Court cannot change the law but it does put pressure on the UK's legislatures to make the changes and ensure that it is human rights compliant.

So, while nothing has changed yet, there could be a change in law in the future to include unmarried partners as eligible for this benefit.

The Childhood Bereavement Network says that every year more than 2,000 families face the double hit of one parent dying and the other parent realising that they and their children aren’t eligible for bereavement benefits.

WPA was actually replaced in 2017 by Bereavement Support Payment. However, cohabitating parents are still ineligible for this new benefit.

Georgia Elms, a spokesperson for the charity Way (Widowed and Young), said: “Considering that cohabiting-couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK, the current system is fundamentally flawed and unfit for purpose.

“As such, we hope that the ruling will set a precedent that drives the necessary changes to the current law so that unmarried couples and their children are not denied support simply because of their marital status – especially considering cohabiting couples will have paid into the national insurance pot from which this money is drawn.”

Find out what help is available with the costs of bereavement.