In SK & LL v SSWP, Michael Spencer successfully represented a refugee mother and a kinship carer in a discrimination challenge to the rules for awarding a Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG).   The appellants appealed against a rule which excludes new mothers who already have a child in the household from eligibility for a SSMG.   They argued that the rule  unlawfully discriminates against refugee mothers with children born pre-flight and kinship carers of children who came into their care after their first birthday, since neither class would have had any opportunity to retain baby items from the elder child.

SK is a refugee who fled Iraq with her son and minimal possessions.  LL became responsible for her nephew when he was 18 months old under a Residence Order.  Both mothers gave birth to a new child and were refused a SSMG applying the first child in the household rule, even though they had none of the basic items they would need to look after a baby.

The Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber) held that the rule unlawfully discriminates against both groups contrary to Article 14 read with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  After considering detailed evidence, the Tribunal found that the rule as it was applied to both was “manifestly without reasonable foundation” since it “denies claimants who are likely to be among those the most in need of such support.”

The ruling means that refugee mothers and kinship carers in similar situations should now be entitled to receive a grant of £500 on the birth of another child, which can be used to buy essential items such as prams and nappies.

Michael was instructed by the Child Poverty Action Group and acted pro bono for the appellants. Read more about the case on Child Poverty Action Group’s website (CPAG).