Layla* came to the UK to join her parents in 1988 when she was three, after her parents arrived and settled from Nigeria in the early 1960s. At the age of 17, there was an incident of domestic violence in her home and she was kicked out while pregnant.
Her application for emergency accommodation was denied by her local authority on the basis that she was not able to prove her legal status in the country. Pregnant and homeless, she was forced to return to the home where domestic violence had taken place.
Layla applied for settled status in 2002 but it took the Home Office five years to grant her indefinite leave to remain. Those five years were spent in the home where domestic violence would occur before she was finally able to move out.
Ferguson, currently working her case at cost, applied for compensation on her behalf. He also applied for exceptional case funding on the basis that: “Were not for legal assistance or legal representation, she may not be able to put the case together properly. She also found it a very traumatic experience.”
While the Legal Aid Agency accepted the lack of settled status was an issue, and that Layla had continued problems finding work as a result of this, she refused her application for exceptional case funding.
Instead, Layla was directed to a Home Office funded service called ‘We Are Digital’, ‘assisted digital’ support designed to help her fill out online Home Office application forms.
Ferguson said: “They make it very clear that they are not a legal service, they are not legally qualified. And they only offer up to three hours of assistance. It’s only there to fill out the boxes on the compensation claim form. It’s not there to make legal arguments,