The Green Party today urged for greater awareness of the changes in the benefits system that the Civil Partnerships Act has brought in.

Following yesterday’s introduction of the Civil Partnership Act, most cohabiting same-sex couples that claim state benefits will experience a reduction in the amount of money they receive.

This brings gay couples in line with straight couples that are unmarried and on benefits are treated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as if they were in a ‘common law’ marriage. They are therefore treated as a single-family unit and are not entitled to separate benefits or pensions.

Nigel Tart, a spokesman for the Green Party of England and Wales, said: “many thousands of same sex partners will be affected and many wrongly believe that it is only those couples who enter into a legal partnership who will be affected. Awareness of this problem seems very low.”

He urged the government to increase the level of awareness of the changes in the allocation of state benefits: “so far the Government’s response has been half-hearted and inadequate to the scale of the task, earmarking only £100,000 for the entire communications campaign budget for the UK.”

The Green Party spokesman also called for “a period of grace before any new assessment of benefits takes effect. So far this has not been promised.” The plea for a grace period echoes the policy advocated by the gay rights group Outrage! who in October called for an interim period.

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