Law Centre wins appeal for UK disability benefits rights for EU citizens

Thursday, March 7th 2019

old hands

Harrow Law Centre, in north-west London, has today won a Court of Appeal challenge, defeating another aspect of the government's Hostile Environment policy toward migrants. 

In April 2013 the coalition government introduced a host of regulations as part of its Hostile Environment policy.  One such amendment, the ‘past presence’ test, meant that a person with a disability would have to wait two years before being eligible for certain disability benefits, even if otherwise they had genuine links to the UK.

Harrow Law Centre has long argued that these rules were discriminatory and in breach of EU law. The Law Centre challenged this restriction and, in a judgement handed down today, the Court of Appeal agreed the Government had acted unlawfully in denying our client a disability benefit.

The Law Centre's client is a 67-year-old German citizen who is severely disabled.  She came to the UK to live with her daughter, who is a British citizen, when she was no longer able to care for herself.  She later claimed Attendance Allowance, but it was refused under the new legislation. As a result, her daughter was also excluded from claiming Carers Allowance, despite being a British citizen.

The Law Centre case was joined with another one, involving an Irish national represented by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). In that case and under the same rule, a mother who is a British citizen was refused Disability Living Allowance for her disabled child, who is an Irish citizen.

Today's Court of Appeal judgment ruled that both claimants had a genuine and sufficient connection to the UK when they claimed disability benefits. It said that the government's approach to this was flawed and unduly inflexible, because it failed to take account of all the particular, personal circumstances and motives of the claimants which, in the round, proved the required 'sufficient link' to the UK.

Commenting on today’s judgement solicitor David Martinez of Harrow Law Centre said:

“This judgment makes clear that once again the government’s interpretation of European Union law has been far too restrictive. This time those suffering from severe disabilities were denied the assistance they so clearly required and were entitled to. This was despite the strong family links to the UK and the clear intention to settle here that both clients had.

"At least for those disabled EU citizens and disabled UK citizens returning or relocating from the EU, the decision-making process for those who have carers strongly connected to the UK will now be done within a fundamentally more benign environment.”

Harrow Law Centre and CPAG were both represented by Richard Drabble QC of Landmark Chambers. Congratulations all on an important victory that will affect many! 

Click here for the Court of Appeal judgment.

Click here for the CPAG account of their case.

For media enquiries, contact Pamela Fitzpatrick at Harrow Law Centre, on 020 8863 4355.