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Food vouchers extended after JR challenge

By Jemma Slingo >>

(2 June 2021)

The health secretary has agreed to extend a scheme that provides children with free food to infants from migrant backgrounds, following a claim for judicial review.

Civil liberties firm Matthew Gold & Co issued judicial review proceedings in December, challenging the eligibility criteria for the government’s ‘Healthy Start Scheme’. The programme provides free vitamins, nutritional advice and weekly food vouchers to low income families with pregnant women and children up to the age of four. 

However, MG & Co said the eligibility criteria excluded some of the UK’s poorest children because they have migrant backgrounds and their families are unable to claim mainstream benefits, which is the trigger for entitlement. The claim alleged the scheme was indirectly discriminatory against children and mothers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and was inconsistent with its intended purpose.

In February the High Court granted permission for the challenge to proceed to an expedited final trial. The claim was brought on behalf of Child A, a one year old UK citizen, and her mother.

According to MG & Co, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has conceded prior to the hearing, agreeing to extend the eligibility criteria and to hold a consultation this winter. In the meantime, the government has agreed to implement a process by which families in this position will be able to access support by way of an ex gratia benefit, the firm said.

Olivia Halse, associate solicitor at MG&Co, said: ‘This is a great outcome for some of the most disadvantaged children in our society who should have never been excluded from accessing this essential support in the first place.’

However, Halse warned that the ‘no recourse to public funds’ limit on benefit claims ‘continues to exclude thousands of disadvantaged children and families from migrant backgrounds from a whole host of vital services’.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)