An unmarried mother who took her legal battle to access widowed parent’s allowance to the UK’s highest court has won her case.
Siobhan McLaughlin took her fight to the Supreme Court in a bid to gain justice for her grieving children, accusing the Government of treating them as “insignificant”.
She initially won a case claiming unlawful discrimination based on her marital status, but that ruling was later overturned by the Court of Appeal.
But, following a majority of four justices to one, the Supreme Court ruled that the current law on the allowance is “incompatible” with Human Rights legislation.
The 46-year-old from Armoy, Co Antrim, was together with her partner John Adams for 23 years and they had four children together aged 15, 16, 21 and 23.
Mr. Adams died from cancer in January 2014 and following his death, Ms. McLaughlin was refused widowed parent’s allowance because the couple were not married nor in a civil partnership.
Ms. McLaughlin’s lawyers had argued that the benefit is not for the married couple but for the survivor and children and claimed there is no evidence proving current restrictions promote marriage.
The court also heard from lawyers representing the Child Poverty Action Group, who argued that the rule is incompatible with international law and penalises children whose parents are unmarried, treating them as “less worthy”.
Giving the lead judgment, 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.”
Lady Hale also stated that not every case where an unmarried parent is denied the allowance after the death of their partner will be unlawful and that it was up to the Government to decide whether or how to change the law.
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