Council loses battle over support for asylum seekers with special needs

In R v National Asylum Support Service, ex parte Westminster
City Council (10 April 2001), the court of appeal had to deal with
a dispute between NASS and the council. It was about which of the
parties should provide services for disabled yet destitute asylum

The council argued that primary responsibility for all asylum
seekers, including those with community care needs, had moved to
NASS through the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. However, NASS
argued that the act specifically left asylum seekers in need of
care and attention for reasons other than solely because of
destitution as the responsibility of local authorities, pursuant to
the functions under section 21 of the National Assistance Act

The court of appeal held that it had not been Parliament’s
intention to relieve local authorities of their National Assistance
Act 1948 obligations towards asylum seekers with specific care
needs, other than their destitution.

Comment: this decision will be important to asylum seekers who
can bring themselves within the ambit of section 21 of the National
Assistance Act 1948 because of needs related to “age, illness or
disability”. The 1948 act gives those who it covers some choice as
to the location and type of accommodation arranged for them, which
is completely lacking for destitute asylum seekers assisted by

Stephen Cragg

Doughty Street Chambers



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