Bereavement benefits discriminatory, says Plaid Cymru MP

Liz Saville Roberts
Image caption Liz Saville Roberts led a debate on the Widowed Parent's Allowance

Support for grieving families provided by the UK government has been criticised by a Plaid Cymru MP.

Liz Saville Roberts wants the marriage requirement for the Widowed Parent's Allowance and the Bereavement Support Payment removed.

She led a debate on bereavement benefits at Westminster on Wednesday.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it was "committed to supporting people during bereavement" and offered a "range of support".

Speaking in Westminster Hall, Ms Saville Roberts said: "Poorer families are more likely to be headed by unmarried parents.

"Both mothers and fathers in married couples are over twice as likely to have a degree as their counterparts in cohabiting couples.

"Children in lower socio-economic households are therefore disproportionately exposed to bereavement support discrimination of this type, compared to their wealthier counterparts."

Work and pensions minister Justin Thompson responded: "It has always been our intention to assess the impact of the bereavement support payment, which we will do once we have sufficient data.

"We are committed to supporting the bereaved and ensuring that they receive the right support at a difficult time."

Arwel Pritchard, from Pwllheli, Gwynedd, said he was unable to access bereavement benefit because he and his late partner were not married.

Donna McClelland died of cancer after they had spent 24 years together.

Image caption Arwell Pritchard says children should not lose because of a decision they did not make

The couple have two sons, now aged 13 and eight.

Mr Pritchard explained: "They [his children] haven't got the choice of which family they come into.

"Why should they lose out financially just because of a decision that they haven't made."

Mr Pritchard, who said "every penny helps" when raising children, added: "At the end of the day, we were a family unit and it doesn't take a ring or a marriage certificate or a contract for somebody to be a family, in my opinion."

Speaking ahead of the debate, Ms Saville Roberts, Plaid's Westminster leader, said: "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."

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "We are committed to supporting people during bereavement and offer a range of support, including Funeral Expenses Payments which can provide an important contribution towards funeral costs."

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