Bereavement Services

Baroness Sherlock Excerpts
Thursday 13th February 2020

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I fully appreciate the impact of a bereavement on individuals; I am sure that all noble Lords have had that at some point in their lives. We have talked about the Tell Us Once service. The noble Baroness—I am saying this respectfully—in true spirit raises a challenge. It is not one that we should dismiss, although people are saying that it cannot be done. I talked to Cruse yesterday after our meeting. It has a campaign called Bereaved Customers First, and it is trying to get banks, building societies, utility companies and other organisations to collaborate and to have what my pension friends would call a dashboard. I would like to speak to Cruse further. I urge the noble Baroness to carry on with this thinking. If it would help, I would be very happy to meet with her to take that forward.

Baroness Sherlock Portrait Baroness Sherlock (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, in the Pensions Act 2014 the Government rather controversially reformed bereavement payments to families who had lost a parent. However, last Friday they lost a case in the High Court in which the court ruled against them, saying that the policy was in conflict with the Human Rights Act because it did not extend bereavement support payments to fathers who had been living with the mother of their children for many years but were not married. I am interested in what the Government are going to do about this. They lost an equivalent case on the old system, Widowed Parent’s Allowance, 18 months ago and we have been waiting for a response to that court case ever since. Yesterday at PMQs, the Prime Minister had this case raised with him. He described the latest case as an injustice and said that

“we will do all we can to remedy it.”—[Official Report, Commons, 12/02/20; col. 852.]

When are we going to get a review both of the new bereavement support arrangements and, crucially, of the position of cohabiting couples?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not one to contradict the Prime Minister, and I am not going to try to do that. [Laughter.] I was really trying hard not to make fun of today, given the subject matter, but noble Lords are spot on. We have the judgment on the Jackson case, and officials are considering it. The Prime Minister has said more than I have been allowed to, so let us just let what he has said stand. The McLaughlin case that the noble Baroness has referred to is a bit more complicated—this is not an excuse—and our officials are working with Northern Ireland officials to see what can be done.