Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
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Home Secretary challenged for cutting benefits to Scottish Asylum Seekers

The EHRC in Scotland has intervened in a case challenging the Home Office in the Court of Session this week.

The Court will be asked to assess whether the Home Secretary has failed to consider the impact on lone parent families of her department’s cuts to asylum support payments.

The case involves a family of Glasgow-based asylum seekers. Ms Okolo and her three children, aged 15, 10 and 5 years old, have suffered a 27% a week reduction in their support payments as a result of Home Office benefit cuts. The case is likely to have a wider impact on payment decisions concerning the estimated 3,000 asylum seekers in Scotland and the estimated 35,000 across the UK.  

This is a rare opportunity for Scottish courts to assess whether the Home Office has complied with the public equality sector duty and whether the policy is discriminatory towards a particular group – in this case, single mothers.

Lynn Welsh, Head of Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland said:

“This case raises important questions about the lawfulness of the level of support provided for those seeking asylum in this country. The question for the court will be whether the Home Secretary’s decision to reduce asylum support in this way is compatible with human rights and equality law.

Ms Okolo is a single mother raising three children, and has now to survive with a 27% cut in payments. The Home Secretary has a duty to consider the impact of these cuts on Ms Okolo’s family or on families like hers across Scotland.”

Notes to Editors

For more press information and interviews contact Sarah Thoms on 0141 228 5974, out of office hours 07854 193592.

Ms Okolo has lodged a spend diary recording the adverse impact of the reduction in asylum support on her and her family. Ms Okolo and her children now receive £36.95 each per week, a total of £147 (a cut of 27.3%). Before 10 August 2015 she received a total of £202 per week, (£42.62 for herself as a lone parent and £52.96 for each child).

What is the public sector equality duty?

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) was created by the Equality Act 2010 and came into force in April 2011. It applies in England, Scotland and in Wales and covers age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. The general equality duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Advance equality of opportunity between different groups
  • Foster good relations between different groups

The full background to the PSED in Scotland can be found here

Channel website: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en

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