You’ll have seen the good news that the courts have agreed an unmarried mother of four, Siobhan McLaughlin, should be entitled to the same widowed parent’s allowance as if she and her late partner had been married. The courts this week decided that denying her the same benefit as a married bereaved mother breached the family’s human rights. So a change in the law to put families with unmarried parents on the same footing as those who are married could be forthcoming. When you think that there are 3.3 million Britons cohabiting, then change is needed. Excluding unmarried families from the same benefits as married ones really does seem to hark back to an earlier age, when few couples even dared live together without putting a ring on it, let alone have children.
Siobhan McLaughlin’s partner died before April 2017 when the benefits for widowed families changed. Now, widowed parents who qualify for Bereavement Support get a one-off payment of £3,500 and then monthly payments for 18 months of £350 – there are more details here. Like Siobhan, I was bereaved before April 2017 – so I come under a more generous system. More than nine years after I was widowed I still get a monthly payment of more than £400. I also got a one-off lump sum payment of, I think, £2,000. Frankly I knew nothing about this benefit until I got it but it’s definitely a help - and I think it would have been unfair had I been denied it just because I didn’t have a marriage certificate.
And I know it is depressing to think about, but if you’re a mother then you really do need to know where you stand if you are widowed. The new Bereavement Support payment isn’t great and doesn’t last long. It’s worth checking up on how much you’d get from your other half’s pension scheme if he died. And think about life insurance too: this is really cheap if you are young and a non-smoker – a few pounds a month will buy you a sizeable chunk of cover. There’s critical illness cover too: this pays out on diagnosis of serious conditions. It’s all about making sure you are covered for a rainy day – whether you are married or not. But do check out Jane's blog on the benefit of getting married here: it's not romantic, but it does make things easier if you're married.
See our guide to life insurance here.