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Upholding the dignity of a Law Centre NI client

CG’s landmark case played a vital role in establishing the right to support for EU citizens across the UK.

Law Centre NI client, CG, who is a single mother of two children and a victim of domestic violence, has been awarded Universal Credit three years after her landmark case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) established the rights of EU nationals with pre-settled status in the UK to social security support where they face severe hardship.

The Northern Ireland Social Security Tribunal has ruled that the decision to refuse Universal Credit to CG for her and her children resulted in a loss of dignity, a breach of the rights of the child and her right to a family and private life.

The CG case has implications across the UK, establishing the rights of EU citizens with pre-settled status to support from the social security safety net if they fall on hard times.  Last week, the Supreme Court refused permission to the Department for Work and Pensions to appeal an earlier case that had followed the CG decision. This now means that the Supreme Court has confirmed once and for all that the CJEU’s ruling in CG continues to apply following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Speaking after the outcome of her case, CG said: “I’m so happy and relieved that this is finally over. This is life changing. I can’t express how grateful I am to the Law Centre for all their help. Without their amazing support, this wouldn’t have been possible. Not only does this make a difference to me, but it will also help many other people who are in similar circumstances to myself and that makes me so grateful. It has been an emotional time, but very worth it."

Samantha Park, Director of Legal at Law Centre NI, who led the European Court case said: “This was a hugely important case that has already made a significant impact across the UK. At the heart of our case was people’s right to live with dignity and have their basic needs met. We thank the Northern Ireland Tribunal for referring this case to the Court of Justice of the European Union to clarify the obligations on states to uphold people’s dignity. The fact that this case was heard by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice underscores the importance of the legal issues. Once the Court established that no state can leave a person without the basic essentials to live a dignified life, it was up to the Northern Ireland tribunal then to assess whether this meant that our client could claim Universal Credit. We’re pleased that, after a long wait, CG and her children’s rights have now been protected by the NI Tribunal.”

Head of Social Security, Owen McCloskey, who represented CG in the Tribunal added: “We all need to be able to rely on the social security safety net that will protect us in hard times. CG was desperate to work and use her skills in Northern Ireland to make a better life, but when she was unable to get the state support she and her young children needed to get on the path to a more settled and secure life, she became trapped in destitution. CG has now had her award of Universal Credit confirmed and her case will mean that no other claimants in her circumstances will be denied access to the support they are entitled to.”

Law Centre NI thanks the team at the European Children’s Rights Unit at the University of Liverpool for its expert assistance in this case.


CG is an EU national who applied for Universal Credit when she and her children fled domestic violence. As a mother of two young children, with no resources to provide for her own and her children’s needs, she was isolated having fled a violent partner. Her claim was rejected by the Department for Communities (DfC) following a change to social security rules in preparation for the UK’s exit from the EU.

When Law Centre NI challenged this decision at the Tribunal, the Tribunal concluded that her case raised an important point of European law, and the issue was therefore referred to the CJEU for clarification.

In 2021, CG’s case (CG v. Department for Communities (C-709/20)) was heard by the Grand Chamber of the CJEU.  The Court clarified that EU law required that a state could only deny basic support once it had ascertained that a refusal to award support would not expose the EU citizen and their family to a real risk of violation of their fundamental rights to dignity, family life and the rights of their children to have their best interests upheld.  These are all rights set out in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

Following the Court’s ruling, the case was then returned to the Tribunal in Belfast, which found that the decision to withhold Universal Credit from CG had breached these rights.  The Tribunal ruled that she was entitled to Universal Credit from the date of claim.