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Divisional Court to consider application for suspension of ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy

The Divisional Court will this week (3 April) consider whether to suspend the Home Office’s ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy.

Claimant law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn (DPG) said that suspension would mean that people affected by the policy, who work under zero-hour contracts, would have a social security safety net if they had to stop working to self-isolate.

The background to the policy is that in 2012 the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, decided that people granted limited leave to remain on family/private life grounds should be subject to a condition prohibiting them from having recourse to public funds (ie; most welfare benefits). This became known as the NRPF condition.

DPG claimed the policy change had left “tens of thousands of people – mainly families headed by single mothers, many of whose children are British – in abject poverty for years”.

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In 2014 the law firm brought a successful challenge to the policy, which resulted in the implementation of an application process for lifting the condition if people could show that they were destitute.

DPG said the High Court was due to consider the legality of the policy on 19 March 2019 but, shortly before the hearing, the Home Office conceded that the policy should be reviewed in compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty and that the law firm’s clients should receive compensation to reflect the suffering that the policy had caused them.

The law firm claimed that, rather than conduct a genuine review, the government spent a year “delaying and obfuscating”.

On 24 March 2020 the High Court was due to consider the legality of the policy again, but the hearing was adjourned at the last minute due to the ’lockdown’ announced the previous evening.

The full case will be heard later this year, but an application to suspend the policy in the meantime will be heard by the Divisional Court on 3 April 2019.

Adam Hundt, the DPG partner acting in the case, said: “The Home Office’s agreement to review the policy was welcome, but sadly, rather than genuinely review and address the discriminatory impact of the policy, it was just another tick-box exercise to be seen to be doing something, so this has ended up back in court.

"The pandemic has now heightened the hardship caused by this policy. The people affected badly need help if they are to keep themselves and others safe. Hopefully the government, and if not then the Court, will ensure that help is forthcoming.”

Alex Goodman of Landmark Chambers, instructed by DPG partner Adam Hundt, solicitor Ugo Hayter and paralegal Althia Stephens, will appear for the claimants.

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