A five-year-old boy has today successfully challenged the UK Home Office and won his case. The challenge was against the policy of the Home Office which prevents migrant families from receiving any form of public funds or financial help from the State.
The high court judges today declared the government’s “no recourse to public funds” (NPRF) policy unlawful for the second time in a year because it forces some families into destitution and it breaches the duty to safeguard the welfare of children.
The appeal was brought by a British boy and his Zimbabwean-born mother. They cannot be identified for legal reasons. However; they argued to the court that the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ policy of the British Government denied families such as theirs the most basic of welfare support. As a result of this decision, it is likely that thousands of children living in poverty in Britain are likely to benefit from the ruling.
This decision means that thousands of children in low-income or jobless migrant parents families should now be allowed to access essential state support such as housing benefit and universal credit. Under the existing laws, families of migrants are entitled to almost no financial support at all whilst they await a decision by the Home Office on their applications.
With Home Office decisions often taking years this means that thousands of families are left destitute and unable to support themselves. Added to the burden that these families face, they are often not given permission to work in the UK until their immigration claims are granted. The combination of the refusal to allow these migrants to work and also denying them access to public funds, creates extreme levels of poverty, often forcing migrants into taking poorly paid work on the black market.
The lawyers representing the boy argued that the Home Office policy was unlawful because many children with migrant parents cannot access the welfare safety net, which provides protection from homelessness, hunger and destitution.
The boy’s mother is a former key worker who lost her job during the pandemic as she had no one to look after her son. She fears that without state support both of them would be left destitute.
Lady Justice Laing and Mr Justice Lane did not accept the boy’s arguments that the policy was racist, but they found that it was unlawful because it disregarded the government’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. The immigration rules, which set out the NRPF policy, must now be amended as a result of this judgment.
The boy’s mother welcomed the ruling. She said: “I have been living with the fear of being punished for needing to have recourse to public funds, and I am glad it is now all over. I hope that other children will not have to grow up in poverty, as my child had to at times, simply because his mum is not British.”
The case is the second successful challenge against the Home Office’s NRPF policy since lockdown. Last year a court found that the policy was unlawful owing to its failure to prevent people falling into destitution, in breach of their right not to be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment under human rights laws.
Although the court did not find that the Home Office policy is ‘racist’ it was nevertheless accepted by the home secretary, in papers that were filed at the court by her lawyers, that 80% of migrants subjected to ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ rules are Asian or African.