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Denying bereavement benefits to cohabitees not justified where children impacted

McLaughlin’s (Siobhan) Application [2016] NIQB 11

An unmarried mother challenged the decision of the DSD to refuse to provide her with benefits under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (NI) Act 1992, following the death of her partner.

The applicant lived with her partner for 23 years and they had four children together.  She was refused Bereavement Benefit and Widowed Parent’s Allowance solely because of the fact that she and the deceased had neither been married nor in a civil partnership.

The Court decided that refusal of payment is justified where the sole beneficiary of the benefit claimed is the cohabiting partner of the deceased.  However, the Court ruled that the benefit should not be refused where the purpose is to ease the financial burden on a family following death of a parent.  Treacy J stated that,

Parents are under the same or similar financial obligations regarding the maintenance of their children irrespective of whether they are married, in a civil partnership or cohabitingThe purpose of the benefit was to diminish the financial hardship on families consequent on the death of one of the parents.’

Treacy J concluded that the DSD’s decision unlawfully discriminated against the applicant on the grounds of her marital status.  Therefore she was entitled to Widowed Parent’s Allowance but was not entitled to Bereavement Benefit.

Citizen’s Advice Bureau Summary can be accessed here.

Family Law, Social Security