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'Unlawful' Newham Council policy left family of four living on £50 a week

PUBLISHED: 16:47 26 August 2014 | UPDATED: 16:47 26 August 2014

An "unlawful" Newham Council policy left a family of four living on just £50 a week, a judicial review has found.

The payments - which are below the threshold to meet essential living needs - were received by a Nigerian national and her three children in the 13 months leading up to May 2014 while the Secretary of State for the Home Department considered whether they should be granted leave to remain in the country.

During this time, the council continually failed to provide a written policy governing its rates for financial support for those who have no access to public funds or an explanation for their basis, despite a number of requests.

The £50 provided was well below the £235.91 worth of “mainstream” benefits which a family of this size could have been eligible for, as well as the £202.72 equivalent sum which the Secretary of State makes to meet essential living needs as part of asylum support.

At the Royal Courts of Justice ruling last month, John Howell QC said it would be unlawful for the council to apply the existing policy as it stands “or to treat the standard rates of payment which it contains as appropriate to meet the normal subsistence needs of a family”, before calling for the council to reconsider its support.

A spokesperson for Newham Council said: “We are disappointed at the judgement of the court. Our policy was developed to ensure that the support we provide meets the needs of destitute families. What we do is informed by close working relationships with other leading organisations in this field.

“We are pleased the judge agreed that we are entitled to set our own local rates, that it is not for the courts to dictate what those rates should be, and that we do not need to adhere to national analogous ones. What we do have to do however is be seen to demonstrate how those rate have been calculated. In line with the judgement, we will look to publish our updated policy later this year, which will clarify how our rates are set.”

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