In order to qualify for a widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's contributory pension, you must satisfy certain social insurance conditions and be a widow, widower or (since 1 January 2011) a surviving civil partner and not in a cohabiting relationship.
The contributions must have been paid on one of the social insurance records and all must have been made before the death of the spouse/civil partner.
Once in payment, the pension remains payable while the person remains widowed or a surviving civil partner. Section 124 (3) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, states that "a widow shall be disqualified from receiving a pension if and so long as he or she and any person are cohabiting as husband and wife".
The legal context governing relationships such as marriage is regulated by the Minister for Justice Equality & Law Reform. Where that legal context changes, the social welfare code is examined for appropriate changes, e.g. the scheme was introduced for widows on 1st January 1936; it was extended to widowers on 28th October 1994 and extended to surviving civil partners from 1st January 2011.
Entering into a marriage or civil partnership is, inter alia, a legal act, which confers both rights and obligations on both parties, which do not exist in law between co-habiting couples. Widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, who become bereaved, therefore, lose someone who had legal duties towards them, and the social welfare code recognises this by providing a pension to them, subject to certain conditions.
In terms of income support, social welfare will always provide a safety net for those who most need it. Supplementary welfare allowance, administered by the community welfare service of the Department, is a means tested weekly payment subject to certain terms and conditions, which provides a basic income support to eligible people whose means are insufficient to meet their needs.