UK Politics

EU ruling goes against ministers on pregnant benefit claimant

Pregnant woman Image copyright Thinkstock

A pregnant French woman, who was denied benefits in the UK because she was not considered to be "a worker", had been entitled to the payments, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

Jessy Saint Prix gave up work as a teaching assistant and was denied income support.

Non-UK residents qualify for income support when they achieve "worker" status in EU law.

The case now returns to the Supreme Court for a final ruling.

The UK's highest court, which had referred the question to the European Court of Justice, will take the EU court's ruling into account as it reaches its decision.

Ms Saint Prix attempted to claim benefits in the final stages of her pregnancy.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "This judgment relates to a very unusual case and is a narrow ruling.

"Nonetheless, it demonstrates how important it is that the UK government is able to set the rules on who is eligible for receiving welfare support, not the European Union.

"That's why we're working with other European governments to ensure we can protect our benefits system.

"The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system."

There are no official figures on how many people could be affected by the ruling, which will apply across the EU.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which acted for Jessy Saint Prix in her appeal said it was "delighted that the European Court has recognised the rights of pregnant women to equal treatment under EU law".

CPAG's solicitor Mike Spencer said: "This is a significant ruling that will help British women living and working on the continent, as well as women from other EU states who currently live and work in the UK."

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