On Monday 11 March, Birmingham Law Centre took its case for interim payments of Income Support to the High Court for the final hearing of the government’s decision to refuse social assistance to the non European Union primary carers of British children. Judgment has been reserved and we hope to have a decision in the next few weeks.
The three main issues for the hearing were (i) whether the court has the jurisdiction to order interim relief pending the outcome of the substantive appeal in the tribunal, (ii) the application of the Zambrano judgment itself and (iii) whether the balance of convenience favours an award of benefit in the mean time.
More about these issues at a later date: suffice to say that Zambrano will continue to be a battleground in this and other litigation for a while longer. Stephen Knafler and Desmond Rutledge of counsel for the Claimant made excellent arguments for applying Zambrano on the basis that Ms Sanneh would, sooner or later, be forced to leave the EU with her daughter, Awa, if she continued to be denied access to mainstream benefits. The Government’s lawyers replied that the Zambrano right only has effect if the risk of removal from the EU is imminent. The argument is finely balanced.
Compelling evidence was gathered for the case from law centres, other not for profit organisations and private firms of solicitors. Each statement contained damning detail of the poor treatment of other Zambrano children who have been relegated, in the words of Mr Knafler, to ‘a third class childhood’. It was persuasively argued that it is not in the public interests to allow these children to continue to be housed and supported through the section 17 Children Act regime.
A very big thank you goes to all organisations who provided statements. It is testament to both the strength of feeling on this issue as well as the trust and cooperation between such organisations that this work was done in support of our case:
Megan Ward (Birmingham Law Centre); Wendy Pettifer (Hackney Law Centre); Penny Gentles-Choudhury (Islington Law Centre); Dave Stamp (ASIRT); Bethan Lant (Praxis); Sue Willman (Deighton Pierce Glynn); Djamilla Hitchins (Ryedale CAB); Alison East (Corum Children’s Legal Centre); Olvia Felas (NRPF Network); Clare Jennings (Public Law Partnership).
Thanks also to Allan Norman (formerly of Birmingham Law Centre and now running his own Social Work/legal practice) for pulling all of these statements together into a report and graphically illustrating the wide range of negative consequences for the welfare and life chances of these children.