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Appeal Challenge Successful For Protecting The Rights Of Homeless Women With Pre-Settled EU Status (Case: A v Barnet)

Our client had approached her Local Authority for a home as she was alone with two children (including one in local education).

At the time she was on maternity leave but. On considering her situation, the Local Authority found that she had pre-settled status, and had lost her right to housing assistance in the UK as she had failed to return to work within 12 months after her maternity leave.

The County Court found that not only had the applicant lost her worker status, but that her child’s right to education in school also did not provide any right to assistance.

Suzanne Bird, Housing Solicitor at HJA represented our client to bring an appeal to the Court of Appeal to challenge why a woman who had not returned to work, within 12 months after taking maternity leave, should not be retroactively deprived of her status as a worker.

In Suzanne’s view, the decision of the lower court would have created a situation where people would lose out on access to a social safety net because of a period of maternity, that would only apply to women.

A second ground of appeal was also raised which challenged that not only did EU citizens with pre-settled status experience discrimination in the way they were required to jump through additional hurdles to access social welfare, but also that the UK government had agreed within the EU Withdrawal Agreement that fundamental rights of EU citizens would be protected.

These rights are set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and include the right to live in dignity, something which is not explicitly protected by the European Convention of Human Rights.

On 7 February 2023, after fighting the appeal for over a year, the London Borough of Barnet conceded that the status of women of EU nationality who have taken maternity leave was protected. Suzanne Bird instructed Toby Vanhegan and Stephanie Lovegrove of 4-5 Greys Inn Chambers.

In December 2022, the Upper Tribunal found that government bodies had to consider the right of EU citizens to live in dignity in the UK, where they otherwise had the right to reside. (AT v Secretary of State for DWP link? ). This decision is currently under appeal by the secretary of state and was heard on the 9 March 2023 (judgment awaited)

The protection offered to EU citizens in the UK should reflect those of UK citizens living and working in other European countries. Social welfare should be fit for purpose in offering a safety net to the most vulnerable.

HJA are aware of a number of cases that are waiting for the determination of the decision, many of whom have been refused help at the point that they are seeking to flee domestic abuse, as in the case of their client (A).

Suzanne Bird, is an Associate Solicitor in Hodge Jones & Allen’s leading Housing Team. Suzanne specialise in Housing and Social Welfare Law and has a particular interest in assisting homeless individuals and families and those who have experience of domestic abuse.

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