Associate solicitor, London
Who? Olivia Halse, associate solicitor at Matthew Gold & Co Ltd, London.
Why is she in the news? She represented Child A, a one-year-old British citizen, and her mother in judicial review proceedings to secure support for children with migrant backgrounds under the government’s Healthy Start scheme.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Parliament’s intention for the Healthy Start scheme was to benefit those in the “greatest need”. However, the eligibility criteria excluded some of the poorest children in the UK from migrant backgrounds because their families are unable to claim mainstream benefits, which is the trigger for entitlement.
‘We brought the challenge to the eligibility criteria on behalf of a single mother and her one-year-old child, who desperately needed the Healthy Start support but were unable to claim it as a result of the mother’s immigration position and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) restriction. We are pleased that the DHSC has now agreed to extend the eligibility criteria to include all British children under the age of four who meet the financial criteria, regardless of their parents’ immigration position, and consult on the scheme more widely. Unfortunately, numerous government schemes which are intended to benefit disadvantaged families link eligibility to mainstream benefits, thereby excluding some of the country’s poorest children from NRPF families.’
Dealing with the media: ‘The media can be a very positive tool especially in cases like the Healthy Start case. I am pleased that it has received media attention as I hope it will increase awareness among the families who are now eligible.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I have always loved (and thought I was pretty good at) analysing, thinking outside the box and a good argument. I wanted to use the skills I had to help the people who need it, give a voice to the voiceless and create long-lasting change.’
Career high: ‘I co-represented over 25 asylum seekers residing in Napier Barracks. We challenged the Home Office’s placement of these vulnerable men in unsuitable, overcrowded and prison-like conditions during the pandemic. Recently the High Court found that the conditions were inadequate and the Home Office acted unlawfully.’
Career low: ‘Having to spend hours late at night chasing a local authority to ensure they complied with a court order to provide emergency accommodation to a street homeless mother and her six-month-old baby at the beginning of the first Covid-19 lockdown while the family, with nowhere else to go, were required to sit waiting in their local police station.’