The Government has resisted reform of the law on statutory bereavement damages in England and Wales in a “sickening display of indifference” towards grieving relatives, says APIL.
“The Government’s reluctance even to consider further reform is a snub to bereaved families, and flies in the face of consistent calls for modernisation of the law,” said APIL president John McQuater.
In written answers published this week, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said that the Government stands by the existing legal framework for bereavement damages, which restricts eligibility to a short prescriptive list of relatives.
“Far too many bereft relatives are cut out of the law on bereavement damages and this needs to change. Those eligible are spouses and civil partners, cohabitees of at least two years, and parents of unmarried children under the age of 18 but only the mother if the parents are not married or in a civil partnership,” Mr McQuater explained. “It leaves no room to recognise other loving relationships.”
“The answers and the language used this week demonstrate how deeply flawed the Government’s attitude is to the fabric of modern families,” he went on.
“And the implication that fathers do not have as close a relationship to their children if they are ‘illegitimate’ is utterly disgraceful.
“More than half of babies born in the UK last year were to unmarried parents. They are being stigmatised and their fathers are completely left out of the law on bereavement when they suffer a parent’s worst nightmare.
“This 40-year-old law is totally out of touch with modern society,” said Mr McQuater.
“The Joint Committee on Human Rights made a clear recommendation that reform to the law on statutory bereavement damages is needed, as did the Law Commission before it, but the Government continues to brush the issue under the carpet in a sickening display of indifference to bereaved families”.