Judges decide “No recourse to public funds” policy infringes prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment

The Divisional Court has ruled that the government’s ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy breaches Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhuman and degrading treatment.

Claimant law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG) said a detailed judgment and order would follow, setting out the steps the Home Office needed to take to comply with the ruling.

The challenge to the NRPF policy was brought by an eight-year-old boy, supported by his mother.

The court was told that the boy, W, had had to endure extreme poverty for most of his life.

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Under the NRPF policy, his mother is blocked from receiving child and housing benefits or tax credits, DPG said.

The court was told that W had been forced to move school five times and been street homeless with his mother. The judges were also told that J, as his mother was known in court, had been driven into debt and suffered from serious anxiety.

According to Landmark Chambers, whose Alex Goodman appeared for the claimant, Lord Justice Bean said: “We have decided that the Claimant succeeds on Ground 6 and that argument on the other grounds will therefore not be required. That is, in brief, because the regime comprising the relevant Immigration Rules, in particular GEN 1.11A of Appendix FM, and the instructions to caseworkers, as presently formulated, does not adequately give effect to the obligations which the Secretary of State accepts are imposed on her by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by long-standing case law of the UK courts.

"Our decision will not affect the ability of the Secretary of State to continue to make grants of leave to remain in the United Kingdom subject to a condition of “no recourse to public funds” in the normal run of cases. It will, however, require aspects of the regime to be amended to make clear to caseworkers the circumstances in which they are obliged not to impose a condition of 'no recourse to public funds', or to lift such a condition if it has already been imposed, in the case of a person who is not currently destitute but will imminently become so without access to public funds."

Lord Justice Bean said the Divisional Court had not made any order today and would not do so until it had prepared and sent out in draft the detailed reasons for its decision. "We will at that point invite submissions in writing, and if necessary hold a further hearing, to discuss the precise terms of the order.”

Adam Hundt, partner at DPG, said: “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.”

DPG's Hundt, fellow partner Ugo Hayter and trainee solicitor Althia Stephens instructed Landmark's Goodman.

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

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The court’s ruling today was not on the principle of the no recourse to public funds policy, it was on the clarity in the policy for those applicants who are seeking to have the no recourse to public funds condition not imposed on them, or lifted if already imposed.

“The Home Office notes the court's judgment and that its full reasons will follow. We will provide submissions in response.”


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