Supreme court rules Government must support EU migrants at risk of not being able to meet “most basic needs”
Supreme court rules Government must support EU migrants at risk of not being able to meet “most basic needs”.
- DWP must revisit 2,900 cases.
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that the Department for Work and Pensions wrongly refused Universal Credit to a domestic abuse survivor who had recently fled her home with her young child. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had applied for permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s earlier ruling, but permission was refused.
The Supreme Court’s refusal means that EU citizens with pre-settled status and no other qualifying right to reside cannot lawfully be refused universal credit if without it they would be at risk of being unable to live in dignified conditions.
The case concerns a mother, known as AT, and her daughter who were accommodated in a women’s refuge at the time of making a claim for universal credit. They had been given only a few vouchers by the local authority, despite repeatedly requesting help. Both mum and daughter had been granted pre-settled status by the Home Office under the EU Settlement Scheme and had been lawfully resident in the UK since before the end of the Brexit transition period. But they were excluded from social security support due to the DWP’s out-dated and restrictive rules which require individuals with pre settled status to meet additional tests before qualifying for social security.
Child Poverty Action Group, which represented the mother and daughter, says a response to its FOI request shows that the DWP has already identified over 2,900 other universal credit claims made by EU citizens where the Court’s findings in this case might apply due to the claimants being unable to meet their basic needs of accommodation (including adequate heating, food, clothing and hygiene needs). However, so far only a small number of these people have been paid any benefit. Following the Supreme Court’s refusal, the DWP will need to urgently revisit those other cases to check whether there is a risk of claimants’ dignity being violated in the same way that there was for AT and her daughter. The charity says ultimately the universal credit rules that stop families like AT's from claiming social security at the times when they need it the most should be scrapped.
The mother told the Court of the impact of not having access to benefits during the months she spent relying on the goodwill of the charity supporting her to get back on her feet:
“I feel like a bad mother. I love [my daughter] very much and would do anything I could not to have to see her enduring this situation but the fact there is nothing I can do makes me feel I am failing. Not being able to provide basic necessities for my daughter, let alone anything that could be called a treat, whilst she watches what other children have and suffers from an inadequate diet, is terrible. I often cry about the situation. My own mental health has suffered.”
The Court based its decision on the mother and daughter’s fundamental rights to human dignity, a principle which the Court noted underpins all rights and which could be relied on by AT and her daughter on account of their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, which was agreed between the UK government and the EU.
Responding to the court’s ruling, CPAG solicitor Claire Hall said:
“Stopping mums fleeing domestic abuse from receiving the financial support they need turns our social security system on its head. This ruling provides crucial protection for some of the most vulnerable families in the UK and the Secretary of State must move swiftly to apply the ruling and ensure no one is forced to live in unacceptable conditions. No child deserves to live in poverty, let alone in destitution, without their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter met.”
Notes to editors:
Two anonymity orders are in place: There is to be no disclosure or publication of any matter likely to lead members of the public to identify AT, her daughter, her support worker or the body providing the refuge used by AT without the permission of a judge of the Upper Tribunal and a judge of the Court of Appeal. Breach of these orders may constitute contempt of court and be punishable by a fine or imprisonment.
CPAG media contact: Jane Ahrends 07816 909302