Category Archives: Children Act

Tragic Consequences of the Hostile Environment and No Recourse to Public Funds - A Two Year Old Dies

The text below is from an email sent by a firm of solicitors looking to instruct a barrister on an inquest case concerning the death of a two year old:

"Our client entered the UK from Nigeria on a Visitor’s visa and gave birth in a London Hospital. There were complications and our client, her new baby, and two year old daughter were accommodated by the hospital for three weeks as there was nowhere else for the daughter to be safely placed.

The baby was then referred to Great Ormond St for surgery, and the mother and baby were accommodated by the hospital. The two year old was refused accommodation in the hospital and none was provided by Social Services. The mother had no other family in UK, as the hospital and Social Services were aware, and she was left with no choice except to place her daughter through the Mosque with an unknown family. On 29 January 2022, whilst mother and baby were in hospital, the two year old went missing from the family’s home. Tragically, her body was found during a police search on ground nearby. She is presumed to have drowned in a builder’s bucket."

I don't want to prejudge the outcome of the inquest but it seems fairly clear that the child in this case died because nobody at a hospital or the local authority was able to care for her or provide support for her mother in doing so or thought that they weren't allowed to.  It may just have been incompetence but my worry is that the failure to assist this two year old was at least partly down to the hostility with which requests for assistance from destitute persons without leave to remain or recourse to public funds are treated. For an example of this see the behaviour of  the Children's Services Department  in the case of R (CO & Anor) v LB Lewisham Council 2017  where the applicant informed the council that she and her two children (aged 9 and 12) were sleeping in the Accident & Emergency waiting area at a hospital but social workers refused to believe this and added that if it was true she was putting the children through this deliberately in order to obtain accommodation from the council.

The death of this child highlights the consequences of policies such as creating a hostile environment for migrants and their children and allowing no recourse to public funds.  I hope that anyone reading this will be moved to call out these policies and those responsible for them for what they are whenever the opportunity arises. Bob Dylan expressed the shame and tragedy of this better than I ever could when he wrote about the senseless death of another person of African background

"Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears"
(The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol - 1964)