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, as have the names and details of clients below.

“ 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 can’t fault GMLC, they helped me as much as they possibly could, and the help was so appreciated and needed.”

“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.”

Case studies

Our advice worker Anne Faulkner helped to win an Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) appeal for someone who we helped to move from the category ‘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.

Sheila* came to us when she was very unwell. She had been claiming 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 Sheila 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.

Lucy was referred in late 2020 by her palliative care worker. She was from Eastern Europe and had worked in the UK for several years until she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. By the time of her treatment, her condition was terminal, but surgery and chemotherapy were recommended improve her quality of life. Lucy had been living with her partner but her relationship had broken down and the partner was not willing to allow her to return following surgery. When Lucy was ready to leave hospital, she made a homelessness application to the Council. They refused assistance because Lucy had been granted only Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and the Council’s housing department had decided that she was not eligible for homelessness assistance. Lucy was facing street homelessness and, without suitable accommodation, her chemotherapy could not begin. We applied for an urgent review of the decision and accommodation pending review. This enabled Lucy to be discharged to suitable temporary accommodation and start her treatment. Lucy’s review was successful and they accepted that she was eligible for homelessness assistance and social housing. Lucy was offered stable accommodation and was supported until she passed away at home several months later.

Toby*, 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’. Toby’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 Toby almost £10,000 in back payments for the ESA he was entitled to.

Graham fell behind in his rent in March 2020 when he lost his job in catering and was unable to find a new job due to the pandemic. He had lived in the property 10 years and had never had any problems paying his rent before. Graham suffered from depression and became extremely anxious, especially when his mum had to enter a care home. After a few weeks he contacted his landlord and explained he was without income but had made a claim for Universal Credit (UC). The landlord served a Section 21 (s21) Notice, but told Graham this was just a formality and agreed by text to reduce Graham’s rent and review the situation when lockdown ended. When the s21 Notice expired, he issued proceedings. The landlord was claiming arrears of over £5,000, and denied that any agreement had been made to reduce the rent. GMLC were instructed to defend the proceedings. We disputed the rent arrears, the validity of the s21 Notice and counterclaimed for the landlord’s failure to comply with tenancy deposit protection requirements. After the first hearing, the landlord offered to drop the possession proceedings. Following negotiation, Graham was offered a new 12 month tenancy at the property at a rent equal to his UC housing payments, and with confirmation that all arrears had been waived.

Hassan* had been found to be fit for work following a medical assessment despite producing evidence to support that he had difficulties with his mental health. Our case work accompanied Hassan to a hearing, and he 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.

Joanne was made redundant during Covid from a job she had held for 12 years. She appealed against her redundancy but her appeal was unsuccessful. Joanne felt she had been unfairly dismissed and that she may struggle to get a new job, as she was in her 50s. Joanne started the ‘early conciliation’ process through Acas, but she was unsure about how to negotiate, what to expect from the process, and what the likely outcome of her case would be. Joanne called GMLC. After speaking to our employment solicitor, Michael, Joanne felt a lot more confident about her rights and how to negotiate what she wanted using the Acas process. Based on Michael’s advice, Joanne got what she asked for. Even though we could not offer representation Joanne felt more reassure and empowered by her one-off advice appointment.

Steven* had his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) suspended as he hadn’t understood the capital rules. He had been given incorrect advice as to what information he had to supply and his ESA had remained suspended for about 18 months before it came to our attention. We identified the problem and helped him to gather what he actually needed to provide – but that left Jobcentre Plus a huge job to calculate what he owed them and, in turn, what they owed him. During the Covid staffing restrictions, this was unlikely to get sorted without a bit of pressure, so one of our volunteers escalated a complaint about the delay and the hardship it was causing Steven, and he received £11k in arrears payments, amounting to an annual gain of £21k.