So, it’s a grey October morning, and we’re back at it.
Amongst other things so far, today, we’ve been dealing with the Home Office’s response to an application for one of our clients to be granted recourse to public funds. She is the single mother of a British citizen., who has fled an abusive relationship, and is now staying, temporarily, with her brother and his wife, in overcrowded accommodation.
Having been notified of this woman’s, and her child’s, traumatic experience, and of their reduction to homelessness and destitution, any reasonable public body might be expected to act swiftly and decisively to improve this family’s circumstances, and ensure that they could access basic welfare support, in line with that available to other dependent British children.
The Home Office, however, never desperate to present itself as a reasonable public body, has instead decided to prolong this family’s impoverishment by writing to demand sight of our client’s brother’s and sister-in law’s bank statements. We have no idea why, and are aware of no policy guidance which suggests that this might be a reasonable course of action, or that our client’s family members might have a statutory obligation to financially support her family- even if they had the means to do so, which they don’t.
More, the Home Office’s actions fly directly in the face of recent caselaw developments, which explicitly state that the No Recourse to Public Funds condition should not be imposed or upheld in relation to people, such as our clients, lawfully granted leave to remain in the UK, who are at risk of inhumane and degrading treatment.
There is nothing in the caselaw, or in the guidance, which makes any reference to checking the bank accounts of friends, family members or other acquaintances. Here, as is so often the case, Home Office caseworkers were simply inventing procedures, rather than exercising their statutory duties to safeguard and promote children’s welfare.
This gap, between the actions statutory bodies should be taking to safeguard vulnerable people, and the actual practice routinely followed by such agencies, is precisely the gap frontline legal advice agencies like ASIRT exist to fill, alleviating poverty, and promoting access to justice for those otherwise denied it.
And this is why we are proud to be taking part in this years Birmingham Legal Walk, raising much needed funds to keep this vital work going.
Please support us if you can.