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Upholding the right to live in dignity

Respect for the dignity of all people is the thread running through all our work.  

If we spot an injustice, we work hard to put it right – and that is exactly what we were determined to do when we first met our client CG. 

CG’s story 

CG came to the social security team at the Law Centre in 2021. She was a single mother of two children and a victim of domestic violence. As a result of a change in the law following Brexit, CG, an EU citizen with pre-settled status living in Northern Ireland, had a right to reside, but not a right to claim Universal Credit. Because of this, she was living in destitution with her children.  

CG spoke to us about how much she wanted to work – to use her skills in Northern Ireland to make a better life for her and her family – but because she was refused Universal Credit, she couldn’t access the childcare support that she needed in order to go to work.  

“I want to work so badly, but I can’t because I have no childcare…The way we live at the moment is not normal. We are in survival mode. We cannot afford healthy food, which affects you emotionally, as well as physically. I cannot even give my child an apple, which hurts me very much.”  


Establishing the right to social security support to live a dignified life. 

When we appealed the decision by the Department for Communities to refuse Universal Credit to CG, the case raised a point of EU law, and it was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for clarification.  

At that point in 2021, the CJEU ruled that a person cannot be denied social security support if that means they are left without the essentials to live a dignified life.  

A hugely important decision that has made a significant impact across the UK, CG’s case shone a spotlight on the plight of EU citizens with pre-settled status post-Brexit, who – for one reason or another – are unable to work. This could be due to illness, disability, or caring responsibilities. It firmly established their right to support from the social security system if they fall on hard times.  

At the heart of this decision was the right to live with dignity.   

What happened next? 

Following the ruling at the CJEU, CG’s case came back to the Northern Ireland Tribunal for a decision on whether this meant that she was entitled to Universal Credit.  

The Law Centre team was delighted when, in February 2024, the Tribunal confirmed that CG was entitled to Universal Credit.  

Around the same time, the Supreme Court in the UK refused the Department for Work and Pensions permission to appeal in a similar case brought by the Child Poverty Action Group. This confirmed – once and for all – that the CJEU’s ruling in CG continues to apply in the UK post-Brexit and that EU citizens at risk of not being able to meet their most basic needs are entitled to access social security support.   

“I’m so happy and relieved that this is finally over”. 

When you’re trying to navigate the social security system, it can be overwhelming and hard to know where to turn.  

Like many of our clients, CG demonstrated great courage in challenging the law in the most difficult circumstances. This was a long road for her, but by telling her story she has made sure that people in a similar position to her will have access to the social security safety system when they need it most.    

CG’s words show just how much upholding the dignity of her rights means to her.   

“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.”