A bereaved dad who won a landmark court case against the government after being denied vital support for his daughters says families like his are still being “swept under the carpet”.
Kevin Simpson, from Chester, last year took the Department of Work and Pensions to the High Court, where judges ruled it was a breach of human rights to deny bereavement support benefits to unmarried parents.
But 12 months on nothing has changed, with families still being denied payments – and campaigners say some are losing their homes because of “inexcusable” delays.
Kevin, 41, whose fiancée Deborah died in 2018 after a battle with breast cancer, said he was stunned when he was told he was not entitled to payments which are available to married couples or those in civil partnerships.
He said: “It feels like it’s being swept under the carpet.”
His view was echoed by mum Laura Rudd, whose partner Nigel Glanville died suddenly after collapsing while out jogging near their home last year.
Have you been turned down for bereavement support because you were not married to your partner? Email [email protected]
Laura, who was nearly forced to move out of her home with three-year-old son Noah, said: “It’s like they’re saying you don’t matter and your children don’t matter.”
The DWP said it “understood” how vital the support – which can see payments of up to £10,000 offered over 18 months – is, but has not said when it will be offered.
The payments are offered to parents whose husband, wife or civil partner has died, but unmarried couples are excluded.
Kevin, who said he was horrified to learn he wasn’t entitled to support because he and Deborah were not married, said: “I’m trying to make the situation better for my kids and for the next family that’s in this position.
“I’ve gone through all the processes and now it’s just stopped, it’s all in limbo.
“It just needs something to happen, it feels like a kick in the teeth. It’s not going to go away, it’s just going to get worse.”
He said the ordeal of losing Deborah and looking after his daughters while trying to make ends meet was caused him a huge amount of anguish, adding: “We could have done more as a family together, it would have lightened the extra burden.
“Some people would have had a nervous breakdown and not pushed it, I’ve had to hold it together for my children and to get through this.”
And he said: “The children just see their mum or dad, they don’t know if they are married or not, why should they be treated any differently?
“If it was the other way around, they (the DWP) would be happy sending letters out, but now it seems like they’re just dragging their heels.”
Teacher Laura, from Wilberfoss in Yorkshire, said she knows of parents who have been forced out of their homes because of money problems after their partner dies.
She said: “It’s immoral and illogical.
“It’s not about providing people with a luxury lifestyle, its a safety blanket to catch people at the most difficult time of their lives.
“It means people slip through the cracks. I really needed them and they said ‘no, sorry, you haven’t got this piece of paper that says you’re married’.
“It’s not Noah’s fault that myself and my partner didn’t get married, a lot of people are finding themselves in this situation.”
Laura said that the government has managed to quickly bring in legislation during the Covid crisis, but has failed to act to protect bereaved families.
She said that she was nearly forced to sell her home, and knows others who have been forced to do so.
“It (bereavement payments) would have given me a little bit of breathing space.”
Charities the Child Poverty Action Group, the Childhood Bereavement Network, and WAY Widowed and Young have branded the delay unacceptable.
Carla Clarke, solicitor for Child Poverty Action Group, said last year’s ruling was clear, but the government has “failed to take any action”.
She added: “As a result, several thousand more children who have lost a parent in the past year have gone without that support and continue to be discriminated against. The Government's inaction is inexcusable.”
The Childhood Bereavement Network estimates that more than 2,800 children have missed out, with director Alison Penny stating: “Every day of delay results in another four or five families missing out on these lifeline payments.”
Georgia Elms, Ambassador for WAY Widowed and Young, said: "We believe it is absolutely unjust that co-habiting couples are still not entitled to receive the same financial lifeline as married couples, who have paid exactly the same amount into the National Insurance pot from which this money is drawn.”
A DWP spokesperson told The Mirror: "We understand how vital this support is to families.
“As we have said, we will be taking forward the legislative process to extend Bereavement Support Payment and Widowed Parent's Allowance to unmarried couples with children."
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