TV Edwards recently helped secure accommodation and financial support for a homeless client who was heavily pregnant and without any other form of support in the UK. Our client did not have any leave to remain in the UK and was in the process of applying to the Home Office to regularise her immigration status. This meant the law excluded her from support from the local authority and mainstream benefits. She also could not claim asylum support directly from the Home Office as she had not made a claim for asylum.
Our client was 35 weeks’ pregnant and experiencing a high-risk pregnancy that could have been exacerbated by the stress of her situation. She had been sofa surfing but after she was asked to leave the accommodation, she became street homeless, relying on food and money from strangers. She was then provided with accommodation by a charity, but they could not afford to support her much longer. The charity had asked the local authority social services department to assess our client’s needs and provide her with support, but there was a dispute between Adult and Children’s social services as to who should carry out the assessment.
Before the Care Act 2014 came into force pregnant destitute migrants were able to rely on section 21(1)(aa) of the National Assistance Act 1948, which gave local authority social services departments the power to provide expectant and nursing mothers with residential accommodation. The Care Act 2014 does not include a similar power and it also specifically prevents social services providing support to someone without status in the UK when their need for support arises solely as a result of her destitution or the physical effects of being destitute. This means that it can be very difficult to persuade local authorities that they should support expectant mothers without status.
In our client’s case, we argued that the local authority should exercise its power under s19(3) of the Care Act 2014 to meet her urgent needs for care and support pending a full assessment. We also relied on there being a potential breach of our client’s rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 if accommodation was not provided, since the lack of support would arguably be a breach of articles 3 (freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment) and 8 (respect for private and family life). We had to threaten judicial review to ensure the local authority acted quickly to prevent any harm coming to our client and her unborn child.
Fortunately, the local authority responded quickly to our correspondence and agreed to accommodate our client and provide her with financial support pending the assessment of her needs, and birth of her child. This support was transferred to children’s services and extended upon the birth of her child.