Advancing human rights and equality
through public interest litigation

Email  Twitter

In the matter of an application by Siobhan McLaughlin for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2018] UKSC 48

An unmarried mother has won her legal challenge in the UK Supreme Court on the entitlement of unmarried couples to Widowed Parent’s Allowance.
Mother-of-four Siobhan McLaughlin lived with her partner, John Adams, for 23 years until his death in January 2014.  John had made sufficient national insurance contributions for Siobhan to qualify for bereavement benefits and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.  However, she was precluded from receiving these benefits due to the fact that the couple had not been married.
She successfully mounted a challenge to the High Court on the ground that the law was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.  The government appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal and was successful – the Court of Appeal held that the legislation was not incompatible with human rights and did not represent discrimination against children as the parent claimed the benefit.
The case proceeded to the Supreme Court who delivered their judgment last week.  The Supreme Court agreed with the earlier High Court decision.  The Judges made a declaration that Section 39 (A) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 is incompatible with article 14 of the ECHR, read with article 8, insofar as it precludes any entitlement to widowed parents allowance by a surviving unmarried partner of the deceased.
Laura Banks, Ms McLaughlin’s solicitor, said
‘This is an extremely significant victory, not only for Siobhan and her children, but for thousands of families throughout the UK.  An estimated 2,000 families each year are turned away from bereavement benefits because of this legislation which the Supreme Court has today clearly stated is unjustifiably discriminatory…’
Visit Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors website here for more article about the case.  The Irish Times’ article can be read here.

Local Developments, Social Security