Pension victory for woman denied pension after partner's death

Denise Brewster told the Supreme Court she was the victim of serious discrimination

Unmarried partners could be entitled to a "survivors pension" following a landmark Supreme Court ruling today.

Ms Brewster applied for a judicial review of the decision and on Wednesday the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of the benefits being extended to her.

To bring her case Ms Brewster resorted to crowd-funding because there is no legal aid for such csaes.

Denise Brewster lived with her partner William Leonard McMullan for around 10 years up to December 2009.

Brewster lived with McMullan for around a decade before he died two days after they became engaged on Christmas Eve 2009.

However, that decision was then overturned in the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland before the case headed to the UK Supreme Court for a final decision.

Despite meeting the criteria for opting in, the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers' Superannuation Committee rejected Ms Brewster's claim, saying a signed nomination was not received from Mr McMullen.

"With more than six million people living together as couples and the numbers rising every year, this is an issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency".

Mr Mitchell added: "The discrimination under the Human Rights Act identified by the Supreme Court in this case means that wherever similar provisions appear in public sector schemes they are likely to be unenforceable and we expect them all to be removed".

In light of the ruling NILGOSC have encouraged "any surviving partner of a deceased co-habiting scheme member who did not receive their full suite of pension benefits because a nomination was not made to make contact with us".

However, Denise and her lawyers argued that the extra layer of administration discriminated against unmarried couples.

The scheme automatically allows married partners to obtain a survivor's pension, but unmarried partners only receive it if they opt in to the scheme.

At the time of his death, Mr McMullan was employed by Translink, a public transport operator, for whom he had worked for approximately 15 years. "In the meantime for the tragedy of Ms Brewster there is at least some comfort to knowing that her late fiance's wishes have now been fulfilled".

Instead, they were required to fill out a nomination form and also prove that they were co-habiting for two years before the form was sent and had been in that position for two years before the date of death.

A woman whose partner died suddenly the day after their engagement has won the right to a survivor's pension at the Supreme Court.

The judgement, unanimously supported by the Court and delivered by Lord Kerr, said: "There is no rational connection between the objective, which was to remove the difference of treatment between a longstanding cohabitant and a married or civil partner, and the imposition of the nomination requirement and therefore its discriminatory effect can not be justified".

He said: "It is also found in many defined benefit pension schemes in the private sector, of which there are around 11 million members".

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