THE Government faces calls to urgently change the law on financial support for unmarried parents whose partners die, following a landmark High Court ruling.

Two fathers who were refused bereavement support payment after the deaths of their long-term partners, because they were not married or in a civil partnership, won their case against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Friday.

In a ruling delivered in London, Mr Justice Holman found the current legislation "unjustifiably discriminates" against parents who are not married or in civil partnerships and their children.

He declared the rules, enshrined in the Pensions Act 2014, are incompatible with human rights laws.

The ruling comes 18 months after the Supreme Court reached a similar decision in the case of Siobhan McLaughlin, 46, of Armoy, Co Antrim, who was refused access to widowed parent's allowance for her bereaved children following the death of her partner of 23 years, John Adams.

Carla Clarke, solicitor for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which represented the two fathers, said: "In light of today's judgment, the Government cannot justify any further inaction - it must act swiftly to ensure the law on entitlement to both widowed parent's allowance and the higher rate of bereavement support payment complies with human rights law.

"No more bereaved children should be denied state support on the basis of their parents' marital status."

Alison Penny, director of the Childhood Bereavement Network, said: "We urge Parliament to amend the relevant legislation as quickly as possible, and to clarify the position for those parents who were previously deemed ineligible because of their marital status.

"Each day of delay, another four to five families will fall foul of this injustice."

Referring to the fact there has been no change to the law since the Supreme Court's ruling on Ms McLaughlin's case in August 2018, Ms Penny added: "It is extraordinary the Government is still dragging its feet in redressing this historic injustice, which continues to affect thousands of grieving children and their parents.

"Despite the Supreme Court's ruling, recommendations from the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, reassurances from ministers, and the efforts of many widowed parents and campaigners, families are still waiting to hear how they will be supported.

"Action is overdue and we urge the Government to act fast."

The case was brought by James Jackson, of Nottingham, and Kevin Simpson, of Chester, who were refused the bereavement support payment for their families after their partners died.

The men, both aged 40, also brought the case on behalf of their children.

The current rules mean that bereavement support payments, if made for the maximum 18-month period, entitle a spouse or civil partner to £4,300 and the figure rises to the higher rate of £9,800 if a couple have children.

The CPAG estimates about 2,000 families a year in the UK lose out on the higher payment following the bereavement of a parent because the parents were cohabiting but not married or in a civil partnership.

Mr Justice Holman said this was clearly a "legally significant number of cases" and the families bringing the case were not in such "isolated or extreme circumstances that they can be ignored as simply a very rare 'hard case' on the wrong side of a bright line".

He added: "The line has been deliberately drawn to exclude them and a legally significant number of others."

The judge said the policy argument and "legitimate aim" of encouraging and promoting marriage or civil partnership was "no different and no stronger" in this case than it was in that of Ms McLaughlin.

He said: "It did not sway the Supreme Court, and it seems to me a wholly unconvincing reason for discriminating in the case of children and entitlement to (the higher rate of bereavement support payment).

"The child cannot make the choice between marriage and cohabitation."

Ms Clarke said: "The court's finding is clear and strong - it recognises that the needs of grieving children are no less for the fact that their parents did not marry and confirms that restricting higher rate bereavement payments to spouses is unlawful and discriminates against children with unmarried parents.

"We pay tribute to our clients who, in the midst of their grief, had the courage to pursue this case in order to ensure that no child is disadvantaged in bereavement because of their parents' marital status."

Ms Penny said: "Parents make the same national insurance contributions whether they are married or cohabiting.

"But at the moment, if one of them dies, their contributions only entitle their partner and children to bereavement support if the couple were married. Today's ruling rights this injustice."

A DWP spokesman said: "We will be considering the judgment very carefully."