A court has ruled that disabled child refugees should be entitled to access Disability Living Allowance following a legal challenge brought by the Child Poverty Action Group on behalf of Refugee Council and Red Cross clients.
Refugees are fully entitled to claim mainstream support, but in order to be eligible to receive Disability Living Allowance; applicants must prove they have lived in the country for two years.
Normally, refugees and their family members are exempt from any residency requirements in relation to welfare benefits but due to a peculiar anomaly this exemption didn’t apply to Disability Living Allowance; leaving many disabled refugees struggling to make ends meet.
The court ruled these restrictions ‘discriminatory’ and said that refugees should be entitled to access the support they required.
The challenge was based on two cases where disabled child refugees were unable to access vital support. One of the children was a Refugee Council client, a Somali refugee who had been resettled here with her family in 2013.
The other case involved a child who had come to Britain to join his mother, a Ugandan refugee, under family reunion rules.
Both children had been denied access to Disability Living Allowance on the basis they had not been in the country long enough, despite the Government permitting or even bringing them to come here and settle.
We immediately recognised the inherent unfairness of the current policy and wanted to make sure that other refugees didn’t face the same problems in future. We welcome the court’s ruling and are urging the Government to update its regulations.
Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: “Refugees arriving in Britain have often escaped war zones and many have been brutally tortured which can leave them living with lifelong disabilities.
“Some refugees are even specifically brought to the UK because they are particularly vulnerable and need to be resettled because they have severe medical needs.
“It thus seems counterintuitive that the British Government then denies these refugees access to vital support; leaving them without enough money to meet their needs and preventing them from living in dignity.
“The Government must urgently ensure that its policies are joined up in order to ensure that refugees offered safe haven here actually have access to the means necessary to begin rebuilding their lives.”