Pay-out for widowers who sued over 'sexist' benefits

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The Independent Online

Two men who sued the Government for sexism after being denied social security payments designed for widows have accepted an out-of-court settlement.

David Cornwell will be given £11,904.60p and John Leary £12,226.20p in back payments, plus weekly benefits, after agreeing to drop their case in the European Court of Human Rights.

The "friendly settlement" means ministers have avoided the embarrassment of being judged as sexist by the court, and of breaching the European Human Rights Convention. It also avoids the possibility of the Department of Social Security being ordered to make mass payments to large numbers of widowed men until the law is changed.

The Government has effectively admitted that the current benefit rules are sexist. The anomaly is due to be removed when the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill becomes law later this year, when the weekly payments to Mr Cornwell and Mr Leary will also end.

The men sued the Government after discovering only women were entitled to two statutory benefits, the widowed mothers allowance and a widows payment, under the Social Security and BenefitsAct 1992.

Mr Cornwell's wife died in 1989, leaving him caring for their 18-month old son, and in 1997 he contacted the Benefits Agency. Mr Leary's wife died in 1997, leaving him caring for three daughters.

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