An unmarried mother-of-four whose partner of 23 years died of cancer has won her Supreme Court battle to access the widowed parent’s allowance. Siobhan McLaughlin, from Co. Antrim, took her fight to the highest court in the UK after being refused the allowance because she and John Adams had not been married or in a civil partnership.
Mr Adams, the father of her children Rebecca, now 15, Billy, 16, Lisa, 21, and Stuart, 23, died in January 2014. Following his death, Ms McLaughlin was refused widowed parent’s allowance by the Northern Ireland Department for Communities.
Ms McLaughlin, 46, initially won a case after claiming unlawful discrimination based on her marital status, but that ruling was later overturned by the Court of Appeal. But, by a majority of four justices to one, the Supreme Court ruled the current law on the allowance is “incompatible” with Human Rights legislation.
Giving the lead judgement, the court’s president Lady Hale said: “The allowance exists because of the responsibilities of the deceased and the survivor towards their children. Those responsibilities are the same whether or not they are married to or in a civil partnership with one another. The purpose of the allowance is to diminish the financial loss caused to families with children by the death of a parent.
That loss is the same whether or not the parents are married or in a civil partnership with one another.”
However, Lady Hale said not every case where an unmarried parent is denied the allowance after the death of their partner will be unlawful. The court also said it is up to the government to decide whether or how to change the law.
The current maximum widowed parent’s allowance is £117.10 a week.
A DWP spokesman said: “We will consider the court’s ruling carefully”.
Ms McLaughlin said: “For me, this case was always about the rights of bereaved children. I am so delighted that the Supreme Court shared our view that the law as it stands has discriminated against my children.
If you would like more information, please contact us >>