Administrative Court considers application of settled status provisions in student finance regulations following COVID impacts

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The Administrative Court has handed down judgment in R (Naeem) v Secretary of State for Education [2022] EWHC 15 (Admin), which found that the Secretary of State should have disapplied an eligibility criterion for student finance in respect of the Claimant and Interested Party due to pandemic-related events. The Education (Student Support) Regulations 2011 require a person to be settled by 1 September in order for them to qualify for student finance for a course beginning in the Autumn Term. In March 2020, following the start of the pandemic, the Home Office temporarily withdrew the “priority service” and “super priority service” which was a paid-for service which applicants for indefinite leave to remain could use to have a turnaround time on their application of as little as 24 hours. This meant the Claimant and Interested Party did not obtain settled status by 1 September, rather had a pending application which was subsequently granted. The Claimant argued the application of the 1 September cut off to his case was discriminatory under article 14 ECHR. He argued he was wrongly treated the same as someone else who did not have ILR on 1 September 2020 and this was not justified. The Court recognised there needed to be bright line rules in the SSR, which had previously been recognised by the Supreme Court in Tigere. However the Court restricted its consideration to the two students who appeared before it and considered the remedy would not impugn the importance of the bright line rules of the scheme. Leon Glenister appeared for the Secretary of State for Education, instructed by the Government Legal Department.

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