Widows of police officers are to visit Downing Street to campaign against pension rules they say force some of them into “a life of solitude”.
Under current rules in England and Wales, the pensions of thousands of police officers would be cancelled if they died and their spouse later remarried or moved in with a new partner.
More than 110,000 people have signed a petition on change.org calling for lifelong pensions for police widows and widowers, including those whose partners died off duty or after retiring.
The widows who started the petition will hand it in at Downing Street on Monday – a week after the death of PC David Phillips, who was run over by a pick-up truck in Wallasey, Merseyside.
Denis Gunn, president of the charity Care of Police Survivors, whose son, PC Richard Gunn, died when his patrol car crashed into a van in March 2004, said the hit-and-run death had underlined the need to support families blighted by such tragedies.
He said: “In the UK we live in relative safety and security. That is provided by the bravery of men and women who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf.
“The tragic events of last weekend on Merseyside highlight not only the bravery of all those police officers who protect us but also the requirement for us to support their families if the worst happens.”
In a partial victory for the campaigners, the rules will change in England and Wales next month to allow the spouses of police officers to keep the pension if they were killed in the line of duty. The Home Office says the changes bring police pensions into line with those of the armed forces – but campaigners say the changes do not go far enough.
The campaign wants the rules in England and Wales to be brought in line with Northern Ireland, where pensions were reinstated to remarried police widows from October 2014. The Scottish Assembly indicated last week that it too will reinstate such pensions.
Kate Hall, whose husband Colin died from a heart attack while serving with West Midlands police in 1987, said the rules forced her to choose between “a pension and a life of solitude, or a second chance of happiness”.
Hall started the petition last year after sacrificing her late spouse’s pension of £300 a month in 2001 when she moved in with her partner after years of living alone.
She said: “Our loved ones worked hard to provide our pensions – putting themselves at risk on a daily basis in order to protect their communities. I hope that our visit to Downing Street armed with the comments from our petition, will indicate to the government that until we are granted parity with Northern Ireland and lifelong pensions for all police survivors throughout the United Kingdom we will continue to fight.”
Another police widow visiting Downing Street is Amanda Keylock, whose husband Robert was killed in a car accident travelling home from duty at Thames Valley police in November 2003.
Keylock lives in David Cameron’s constituency of Witney, Oxfordshire, and met the prime minister in March to urge him personally to overhaul the rules. She welcomed the changes for widows in England and Wales, which were announced by George Osborne in his budget in March.
“It means that there’s no constraints any more. We can live normal lives from now on,” she said. “It just gives us a choice – either living on our own or starting new lives with a partner and keeping our pensions, whereas before we didn’t have a choice.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “This government has made clear its commitment to ensuring that public service pensions are affordable, sustainable and fair.
“That is why the chancellor announced in March that widows, widowers and surviving civil partners of police officers who die on duty in England and Wales, will no longer lose their survivors’ benefits if they remarry, form a civil partnership or cohabit.”