Angela: settled in her home before Christmas

Angela was forced to flee her home country and arrived in the UK in 2017 to claim asylum. She was provided with Asylum Support whilst the Home Office considered her case. She became homeless in April 2018 when she was granted Refugee Status and evicted from her asylum accommodation.

Angela had nowhere to go. She was pregnant, did not speak English and had no family in the UK. She travelled to Greater Manchester to be close to her only friend.With the help of her friend she went to the Council to ask for help with accommodation but was repeatedly and unlawfully turned away.

Her friend arranged for her to sleep on the sofa of a friend, but the accommodation and environment was both unsuitable and unsafe. Angela’s midwife was very concerned and she as well as a local voluntary agency both wrote letters to the Council asking for urgent assistance.

In August 2018 the Council eventually provided her with Bed and Breakfast accommodation. However, the accomodation was outside the Council area and far away from her friend and support network. Then, after just two weeks, she was evicted because the Council decided that she had no local connection to their area and asked Angela to return to the area where she had been granted Refugee Status.

Angela was not able to move, as she was very close to her due date and had been booked into a Manchester Hospital with a specialist midwife. A move at such late stages of her pregnancy would have been risky both for her and her baby and she did not want to give birth without the support of her friend.

A local voluntary agency contacted Greater Manchester Law Centre for urgent legal advice. We contacted the Council to challenge the local connection decision and to request that accommodation be provided pending the Council’s review decision. The Council still refused to provide accommodation.

Following an urgent application to the High Court, a Judge ordered the Council to accommodate Angela in their area, whilst they reconsidered her local connection decision.

As a result of this court order, Angela was able to give birth to her little girl with the support her specialist midwife and her friend. Following the birth and our further review submissions the Council subsequently overturned their local connection decision and have now accepted a duty to provide Angela and her baby with long term accommodation in the area.

Angela is now looking forward to being settled in her new home before Christmas.

Angela gave her permission to share this story. Her name and details have been changed.

GMLC offers specialist welfare rights advice and representation for those who are most disadvantaged in society. Not only has the Government removed Legal Aid for those who seek help with the overly complicated benefit system, they have introduced a host of welfare reforms to slash billions from the welfare budget.

Our specialist advisors help people from the very start by assisting them to complete ESA, Universal Credit and PIP claim forms. These forms are not simple, but the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and later the Tribunals Service, use these to assess entitlement to benefits, and claims can be severely compromised if vital information is missed at the very start.

Our work focuses on the needs of clients who are unable to access this support anywhere else. Face-to-face advice is particularly important for vulnerable clients. All our specialist volunteer advisors have extensive knowledge of welfare benefits appeals and have successfully challenged DWP decisions both at review and appeal stage.

The stories below illustrate the kind of work GMLC does, and the impact it helps to create for the people who seek our help, their families, and their wider communities.

“ I cannot praise highly enough the support and professionalism shown to myself during the process of Mandatory Reconsideration for PIP. The Greater Manchester Law Centre and my volunteer advisor Shaheen Mansoor kept me informed every step of the way.”

“I will never forget what the Law Centre has done for me.”

“I came to see you quite distressed and confused and now things seem much clearer. Both you and [GMLC volunteer] Nick have been fantastic.”

Our fantastic welfare benefits casework volunteers have achieved:

Case studies

Our advice worker Anne Faulkner helped to win an Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) appeal, from fit to work to support group, and got a wonderful thank you. The person was originally awarded zero points, meaning their ESA allowance was denied. With Anne’s professional and effective representation, they were awarded 24 points in the appeal, meaning their ESA was granted.

One person who came to us was very unwell and claimed Income Support as a single person, even though she had been married since 2002. This is because the client’s husband was not a British national and had no recourse to public funds.

One day, the benefit agency demanded £20,000 in repayments. They stated that our she had unlawfully claimed benefits for her husband, even though she had declared that he was fighting his immigration status and not entitled to public funds.

After many years of fighting, the couple resolved his immigration status through the courts. However, they were still being asked to repay £20,000 in benefits, and they couldn’t afford a lawyer to argue their case. The Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) referred them to us for support.

We assisted them and were successful in appealing against an overpayment of Income Support amounting to £16,381.29, and an overpayment of ESA of £3,834.25.

Free of the repayments and with established immigration status, the couple were free to begin again in getting the Income Support they needed. 

A young man with learning disabilities, who was born overseas but lives in the UK with his British father, was refused Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for not being able to show he had a ‘right to reside’. The young man’s support worker had been trying to work with the Department of Work and Pensions to resolve the matter for nearly a year when they contacted Greater Manchester Law Centre.

Our volunteer advisors worked with them to collect the paperwork needed to demonstrate the young man’s right to reside. The Department of Work and Pensions accepted this evidence and awarded the young man almost £10,000 in back payments for the ESA he was entitled to.

A person who came to us was found to be fit for work following a medical assessment despite producing evidence to support his mental health. Our case work accompanied the client to a hearing and the client won his appeal and the Judge placed him in the support group (which is the group for people with serious health conditions).

Our case worker also identified that he may be entitled to other benefits. She helped him to complete a PIP claim form and asked a volunteer to attend a medical assessment with him. He was also awarded the enhanced rate of the daily living component and the standard rate of the mobility component.

In another case, our advisor helped a couple to appeal against an ESA failed medical assessment appeal; PIP appeal as well as identifying other benefit entitlements for the family. She helped her to be placed in the support group on appeal, her husband had a back date of Income Support and currently waiting for the PIP decision.