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R (on the application of (1) Yonas Admasu Kebede (2) Abiy Admasu Kebede) v Newcastle City Council

CitationR (on the application of (1) Yonas Admasu Kebede (2) Abiy Admasu Kebede) v Newcastle City Council (2013) [2013] EWHC 355 (Admin)

Shazia Akhtar acted for two brothers, Ethiopian nationals, who were abandoned in the UK as children and who were consequently looked after by the defendant local authority, Newcastle City Council  (“NCC”). Both had discretionary leave to remain in the UK and both applied for, and gained places at university, due to commence in September 2012.

The Education (Student Fees, Awards and Support) (Amendment) Regulations 2011/87, meant  that those with discretionary leave to remain were no longer entitled to "home student" status. The practical effect of this change meant that the brothers could not access student loans, without which they could not pay their tuition fees and attend university.

Shazia argued that s23C (4) (b) and s24B (2) (b) of the Children Act meant that NCC had a duty to assist the applicants with the payment of their tuition fees which, on a simple statutory construction, were "expenses connected with education".

NCC denied that "expenses connected with education" included tuition fees and therefore they were not statutorily obliged to provide such assistance. NCC further argued that it was a matter for its discretion and that the issue of resources was a relevant factor. NCC relied upon the House of Lords decision in R v Gloucestershire CC ex P Barry [1997] AC 584 to support this contention.

The court rejected this argument and held that the argument of limited resources should not be applied where there was a statutory duty (as opposed to a power) to assist, applying the principle of R v East Sussex CC ex p Tandy [1998] AC 714.

The court accepted Shazia’s argument that s23C (4) (b) and the related provision s24B (2) does in fact cover tuition fees and the local authority now has to reconsider its decision in light of the court’s findings.