Plaid Cymru’s Leader in Westminster, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has accused the UK Government of systematic failings and delaying tactics in the way it supports bereaved families, urging the Secretary of State to act on a Supreme Court ruling last summer which afforded an unmarried widowed mother the right to access Widowed Parent’s Allowance for her children.
Speaking ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on the Widowed Parent’s Allowance, secured by Ms Saville Roberts, she called on Ministers to ensure that all children who suffer the loss of a parent are supported financially, regardless of whether their parents are married, in a civil partnership or co-habiting. The Plaid Cymru MP also questioned whether the resistance of the Westminster Government not to extend the support to unmarried bereaved parents complied with human rights legislation, including the Human Rights Act.
In a case heard on 30 August 2018, the UK Supreme Court found that in refusing Widowed Parent’s Allowance to a survivor of an unmarried couple on the grounds that she was not married to her late partner, the legislation was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The Plaid Cymru MP who has been campaigning to redress the injustice faced by unmarried parents and their children, accused the UK Government of administering a system which exacerbates the grief experienced by bereaved families. She called for immediate action to prevent other families from suffering discrimination at the most traumatic of times.
Ms Saville Roberts has taken up several cases in her constituency including that of Arwel Pritchard, who lost his partner, Donna McClelland to cancer last year, having been together twenty four years and raising two boys. As Mr Pritchard and Miss McClelland weren’t married, however, he faced a barrage of bureaucratic hurdles to prove he was her next of kin and was denied the financial support afforded to legally recognised husband and wife.
Liz Saville Roberts MP said:
“Around 2,000 families each year are refused bereavement benefits because of current legislation, which the Supreme Court ruled is unjustifiably discriminatory.
“My constituent Donna McClelland died on 20th May last year, leaving two young sons - Cian and Daniel, and her partner of twenty four years, Arwel Pritchard.
“They were engaged, but had prioritised buying a house over the cost of getting married. They put their children’s home first.
“When Donna passed away, not only was Arwel faced with caring for their children as a lone parent, but his grief was compounded by having to face a barrage of bureaucratic hurdles to prove he was Donna’s next of kin in an attempt to seek financial help to support his family.
“It appears that the current regulation is discriminatory against couples who decide not to marry yet are able to bring up their children in a loving, family environment.
“The unjust consequence of all this is that children are being discriminated against on the basis of decisions taken by their parents, decisions which they are absolutely entitled to make.
“Why should those who decide not to marry, yet are in a loving relationship and have children together be subject to such discrimination? The loss is the same whether or not the parents are married or in a civil partnership with one another.
“I call on the Government to act without further delay by committing to remove the marriage requirement for both the Widowed Parent's Allowance and the Bereavement Support Payment, and to bring forward a clear timetable within which to implement the required changes to the law. No child should be denied support on the grounds of their parents' marital status, and no loving father and long-term partner like Arwel should have to be told that the Government undervalues his family.”