The duty to give former looked after children assistance with education

February 19th, 2013

The High Court has found in R (Kebede) v Newcastle City Council that local authorities have a duty (and not a discretion) to make a grant in relation to educational expenses and that this could include a grant for tuition fees.

The two claimant brothers were former relevant children for the purposes of sections 23B and 23C of the Children Act 1989 i.e. they were over eighteen and (a) had been looked after by the local authority up until their 18th birthday or (b) they had been looked after by the local authority for a prescribed period when they were 16 and/or 17. They wanted to go to university, but were ineligible for student loans because they were not British citizens (although they had discretionary leave to remain in the UK). They asked the local authority to assist under section 23C of the Children Act 1989, which included provision that the local authority had a duty to give them assistance by making a grant to enable them to meet expenses connected to their education, to the extent that their educational needs required it.

The local authority refused to assist the brothers, arguing that it had a discretion to assist but that, in any event, it only had a power to assist with expenses connected with education and this did not include a student loan. The Court rejected both of these arguments.

Mr Timothy Straker QC held that there was a duty on the local authority to make a grant to the extent that a former relevant child’s educational needs required it. Further, that grant could include tuition fees; a principal expense associated with education was the cost of tuition. The judge also rejected an argument that it was relevant that the local authority had limited resources. Having allowed the claim, he refused to make a mandatory order requiring the local authority to make a grant to the brothers. ¬†Instead, the decision was quashed and a fresh decision is to be made in light of the judgment, with the local authority deciding whether or not the brothers’ educational needs require the grant.

The judgment is not available as yet.

Rachel Kamm

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