High Court ruling over ‘no recourse to public funds’ delivers further blow to Home Office’s discredited hostile environment policy

An 8-year-old British boy – supported by his migrant mother – has today won a ruling that the policy denying families like his access to the welfare safety net is unlawful.

The judges in the case heard that the boy, whose identity is protected by an anonymity order and is therefore known only as W, has had to endure extreme poverty for most of his life.

Under the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy introduced in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May, W’s mother is blocked from receiving the same state support that helps other low-earning parents to survive, including child and housing benefits, or tax credits.

The court heard that the 8-year-old had been forced to move school five times and been street homeless with his mother, due to the Home Office’s refusal to allow them access to the social security safety net. The judges were also told that J, as his mother was known in court, had been driven into debt and suffered from serious anxiety.

The judges ruled that the NRPF policy breaches Article 3 of the ECHR, which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment. A detailed judgment and order will follow, which will set out the steps the Home Office needs to take to comply with the judges’ ruling.

The High Court challenge was supported by The Unity Project, a charity set up three years ago to support families facing destitution as a result of NRPF.

Project co-ordinator Caz Hattam says:

‘Even before the pandemic, this policy was trapping working families in the most abject poverty, forcing them into debt, and unsafe, insecure housing. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, their situations have become even more dire and desperate. We provided a wealth of evidence of how children’s lives are being blighted by this policy, and we welcome the judges’ recognition that their families must be given access to the welfare safety net to prevent them falling into destitution.’

Adam Hundt, partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn, the law firm bringing the case, says:

“We and many others have been telling the Home Office for years that this policy is causing immeasurable, irreversible damage to so many people, but particularly children like our client. The Home Office refused to listen and ignored all the evidence they were shown, so it has now been left to the courts to confront the truth, which is that the policy breaches human rights law.”

For more information, contact Fiona Bawdon, fiona@impactsocialjustice.org.

The barrister representing our clients is Alex Goodman of Landmark Chambers, instructed by DPG partner Adam Hundt, partner Ugo Hayter and trainee solicitor Althia Stephens.

Project 17 intervened in the case, represented by Amanda Weston QC of Garden Court Chambers,and Bijan Hoshi and Ollie Persey of Public Law Project.

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