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Council changes policy on support to destitute families after court order

A London council has changed its policy on the support it gives to destitute families under Part 3 of the Children Act following a court challenge.

The policy at the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham was to give each child £23.10 a week. This was challenged by Mrs Z, advised by law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn.

After hearing evidence, the Administrative Court gave interim relief.

The council subsequently reviewed its policy towards destitute families – of whom there are approximately 90 in the borough – and will now consider the family rather than each child individually.

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A spokesman for Barking & Dagenham said: "Although this family's cash payment has increased, it is not the case the amount of support offered to families has been doubled. Each case is carefully assessed and levels of payment will vary."

He added that the council used the level under s. 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 as a guide, "not an entitlement", and support depended on each individual set of circumstances.

The spokesman said the new policy would be reviewed annually.

Deighton Pierce Glynn said the amount now being received by its client was "still far below the poverty level, and far below what the family would receive on means tested benefits, but over twice what families had been receiving until now.”

A further challenge to this rate was being contemplated, the law firm added. 

Polly Glynn, Mrs Z’s solicitor, said: “It is outrageous that families in the UK are having to subsist on such low levels of support. It is hoped that this case will send a message to other local authorities to look again at the level of support provided to destitute families under Part 3 of the Children Act.”

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