Sonia Lenegan successfully challenges the Home Office and HMRC on behalf of destitute HCLC client
We are delighted to report that Sonia Lenegan, HCLC's Senior Immigration Solicitor, has helped a destitute HCLC client to successfully challenge an unlawful decision of the Home Office regarding the client's immigration status and a related incorrect decision of HMRC regarding the client's entitlement to state benefits.
In October 2017, the Home Office made a decision refusing to lift a 'No Recourse to Public Funds' (NRPF) restriction from our client's grant of leave. Our client had first been granted limited leave to remain in 2015 and that leave was granted with recourse to public funds (meaning that she would be entitled to receive state benefits), as she had previously received support from the London Borough of Hackney under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 because she was a single mother who had had to leave her partner after he subjected her to domestic violence, of which he was subsequently convicted in court.
In June 2017, our client applied to extend her leave and in July 2017 the Home Office mistakenly granted her further leave in the 'five year route to settlement' - which does not permit people to have recourse to public funds - instead of the 'ten year route to settlement' which she had been granted previously.
The effect of the Home Office's mistake meant that our client had to notify the benefits agencies that she was no longer entitled to state benefits. Her benefits were duly stopped which tipped her and her young children into destitution.
In Octobet 2017, our client applied to lift the NRPF restriction from her leave but the Home Office rejected the request. The Home Office relied on the fact that she had been granted leave in the 'five year route to settlement.'
Sonia Lenegan drafted a pre action letter, which was sent to the Home Office in November, threatening legal action. In its response, the Home Office again refused to lift the NRPF restriction - relying on its own erroneous grant of leave under the five year route to settlement!
In January 2018, Sonia lodged a judicial review for our client. After the Home Office failed to respond in time, she then applied for the matter to be 'expedited', meaning that a judge would consider the case more quickly than usual. When the Home Office found out that Sonia had done this, it immediately conceded that its decision of July 2017 was unlawful and agreed to withdraw it completely. It then granted our client leave to remain with recourse to public funds. The effect of getting the Home Office to withdraw the July decision meant that our client was entitled to receive benefits for the entire period for which she had been deprived of them. If they had agreed to withdraw only the October decision, it would have still left our client with a lengthy period of time during which she was not entitled to benefits.
With the help of HCLC's benefits caseworker, Sonia then sought a mandatory reconsideration of the decision to stop our client's benefits, on the basis that the decision had been based on the Home Office’s unlawful decision which had now been withdrawn. Unfortunately, it was refused so we then sent a pre action letter to HMRC challenging the refusal. HMRC backed down straight away and our client’s benefits were reinstated and approximately £6,000 of her 'overpayment' debt was cancelled. Furthermore, she was awarded another £5,000 in backdated benefits that she should have received had the Home Office not made its unlawful decision.
Congratulations to Sonia Lenegan and our client!