Tom is truly excellent and the foremost claimant social security counsel at the junior Bar. He has encyclopaedic knowledge of benefits law and deploys it effectively in litigation


Tom Royston specialises in immigration, housing, mental capacity and social security law.

He won a Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in 2017, was shortlisted as The Legal 500 Regional Junior of the Year in 2019, and as The Legal 500 Public Law Junior of the Year and Chambers UK Bar Award Human Rights and Public Law – Junior in 2023. Tom was a Times Lawyer of the Week in 2020, and has been listed for some years in Band 1 of Chambers and Partners for Administrative and Public Law, and as a Tier 1 Leading Junior by The Legal 500, for Immigration, and Administrative and public law (including civil liberties and human rights).

He has appeared eight times in the UK Supreme Court, and has experience of international litigation in the CJEU and ECSR. Most of his work is in tribunals, the county court and the Administrative Court.

Tom is often instructed in test cases about systemic problems with how the state treats individuals. Those cases have, for example, established that:

  • legacy benefit claimants have a right to be consulted before deductions are made from their benefit to pay utility bills (Timson) [media coverage].
  • disabled people who need accompaniment outside because of distress can be entitled to Personal Independence Payment, estimated to be worth £900m per year (MH and RF) [media coverage];
  • it breaches Convention rights for Parliament to exclude unmarried partners from widowed parents’ allowance (McLaughlin) and bereavement support payment (Jackson) [media coverage];
  • the Universal Credit Regulations had been calculating monthly-paid claimants’ incomes irrationally (Johnson) [media coverage];
  • it is reasonable for applicants for homelessness assistance to treat benefit levels as a benchmark for reasonable living expenses (Samuels) [media coverage];
  • disabled children who need an extra bedroom for overnight carers are entitled to exemption from the ‘bedroom tax’ (Rutherford) [media coverage];
  • several hundred thousand EU workers were unlawfully subjected to the Worker Registration Scheme, and others were denied a right to reside in the UK (Gubeladze) [media coverage];
  • council tax reduction schemes cannot lawfully impose ‘past residence’ requirements (Winder) [media coverage].

Before coming to the Bar in 2012, Tom worked in the Citizens Advice Bureau and a law centre, and as a primary school teacher. He was the UK Consumer Campaigner of the Year 2009. He established the Yorkshire Tribunal Advocacy Project, which provides pro bono representation in social security tribunals.

Public law

Tom works hard to find practical and creative solutions in disputes between people and the state, especially when the odds seem stacked against his client.

His main field is social security, in which he has appeared in a large proportion of the most significant cases litigated in the UK in recent years, but he has acted in successful public law challenges across a very broad range of work, including education, housing, pensions, statutory complaints procedures, council tax, social care and immigration.

Tom joined the editorial team of the annual annotated Social Security Legislation volumes in 2021, is joint cases editor of the Journal of Social Security Law, and has been a contributing author to several successful practitioners’ books. He is ranked in Tier 1 of the Legal 500 directory and the Chambers and Partners directory for his public law expertise.

Immigration and asylum

Tom appears regularly in the First-tier Tribunal, Upper Tribunal and High Court and has also acted in test cases on immigration law in both the Supreme Court and CJEU. He has particular interest in cases involving children and family life, or claimants whose health would be affected by removal from the UK.

Tom is ranked in Tier 1 of the Legal 500 directory for his immigration and asylum law expertise. He is a contributing author to the forthcoming LAG migrants’ rights handbook.

Housing & Homelessness

Tom has acted in housing and homelessness work throughout his career. His reported cases in this area span a range of issues, from intentional homelessness, to unlawful eviction, to tenancy deposit law, to eligibility for homelessness assistance.

He has particular expertise with cases raising disability discrimination defences and counterclaims, and problems arising out of capacity issues or a crossover between community care and housing law, where he is often instructed by the Official Solicitor.

Tom’s expertise in social security law often proves invaluable in tackling cases where there are substantial rent arrears.

Court of Protection

In the Court of Protection, Tom is frequently instructed in deprivation of liberty and in welfare cases, especially where there are difficult issues about challenges to care assessments and/or parallel housing law litigation.

His expertise in social security law is useful in cases where there are side issues about whether claimants are receiving the appropriate benefits.

Tom also specialises in public law challenges to a range of procedural community care law issues, for example charging, delay, and failure to assess need.


Tom brings his expertise in discrimination law to a broad range of cases: in particular housing, immigration, goods and services, education and public functions. He has a particular interest in discrimination claims against public authorities in the county court. He enjoys litigation but is also experienced in bringing cases to successful conclusion through negotiation or mediation.

He is on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s specialist counsel panel. He has published a series of articles on discrimination law in both practitioners’ and peer-reviewed academic journals.

Notable cases

This link lists most of Tom’s reported cases. Some further examples are:

Public law

R (X) v First-tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber) (March 2023) Judicial review of a tribunal’s failure to make an urgent decision listing an appeal. Conceded with costs shortly after issue.

R (Osman) v Croydon London Borough Council (CO/2362/2022, March 2023) Judicial review of a council tax reduction scheme. Settled with damages and costs paid on morning of hearing.

R (Kauser and JL) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (CO/987/2020, 7 October 2020) Lawfulness of policy excluding disabled students from access to UC by refusing to conduct work capability assessments. Conceded by SSWP with costs after grant of permission. [Media coverage]

R (S) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (CO/1051/2020) Emergency challenge to failure to pay benefit to a destitute person. Conceded by SSWP with costs shortly after issue.

R (Lesser) v Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (CO/185/2020) Procedural fairness in judicial complaint investigation. Conceded by JCIO with costs after grant of permission.

Case 121/2016 Equal Rights Trust v Bulgaria (ECSR, 2019) New Bulgarian social welfare legislation held unlawfully discriminatory on race and gender grounds, and incompatible with Bulgaria’s international and law obligations towards children under Art 16 of the Revised European Social Charter.

R (X) v Cornwall Council (CO/2180/2019) Restructuring of education provision caused unlawful failure to comply with educational provision rights of large number of disabled young adults. Case conceded by LA with costs after permission hearing. [Media coverage]

DG v Liverpool City Council [2016] RA 259 (VTE, Dickie VP) Whether Valuation Tribunal can hear merits appeal against local authority’s refusal to exercise discretion to waive CT liability.


HS v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] UKAITUR PA037602018 (23 April 2020) Risks for undocumented person in Iraq.

LM v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] UKAITUR HU093792018 (25 June 2019) Art 3 risks on removal for deportee with mental health problems.

C5/2014/3869 SA (Sudan) v Entry Clearance Officer, Cairo (CA, 8 October 2015) Meaning of ‘insurmountable obstacles’; relevance of potential for future entry clearance application. Appeal allowed by consent after permission granted.

Hassan v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] UKAITUR DA007352013 (McCloskey P, 11 April 2014) Test for exclusion from international protection; application of Refugee Convention test in humanitarian protection context.

Secretary of State for the Home Department v Naitini [2013] UKAITUR DA009962013 (9 December 2013) Art 8 and automatic deportation. Relevance of military service for UK in Art 8 balance.


X v University of Y (Mediation) Litigation between student and university about reasonable adjustments for disability following neurological injury. Settlement following representation at mediation, on terms that university paid damages and costs, permitted X to continue on course, and committed to future adjustments.

X Housing Association v Y (County Court) Possession claim on mandatory grounds withdrawn at court, following service of Defence and skeleton demonstrating that claim amounted to a racially discriminatory act, contrary to EA 2010 and also EU law.

X (by his litigation friend Y) v Z (County Court) Damages claim for disability discrimination in the performance of a public function – failure to arrange a home visit to perform statutory assessment. Damages and costs paid.

X (by his litigation friend Y) v Z College (County Court) Damages claim for young adult (protected party) expelled from college course: failure to make reasonable adjustments during expulsion procedure. Settlement on terms that college paid damages and costs. X did not wish to return to course.

X v Y NHS Foundation Trust (Employment Tribunal) Settlement on terms that Trust pay damages, following multi day PHR in which ET found X was a disabled person.


Samuels (Appellant) v Birmingham City Council (Respondent) [2019] UKSC 28. The Supreme Court has unanimously allowed Ms Samuels‘ appeal against the dismissals (by HHJ Worcester at the County Court at Birmingham and the Court of Appeal) of her appeal under Section 204 Housing Act 1996 against the decision of Birmingham City Council that she was intentionally homeless.

SZ v Manchester City Council (High Court) Mandatory order at emergency hearing, requiring authority to accommodate homeless person.

Selivona v Sandwell MBC (County Court) Appeal from possession order made on mandatory grounds; tenant alleged that possession proceedings defective and also indirectly racially discriminatory; after appeal was allowed and remitted, LA settled proceedings, accepting that tenant was a secure tenant not introductory and that she should remain in the property.

R (On the Application Of Rutherford and Ors) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2016] EWCA Civ 29. The Court of Appeal held that Regulation B13 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 – the ‘bedroom tax’ – discriminates unlawfully against (i) the families of disabled children who need a room in their house for overnight carers, and (ii) domestic violence sufferers who are part of a ‘sanctuary’ scheme.

Begache v Noreen [2016] 6 Legal Action 48 Unlawful eviction. Included damages (in excess of rent) for a period where landlord had unlawfully reentered but tenant was unaware. Included indemnity costs for beating Part 36 offer even though made late.

Seale v Armitage Residential (County Court) Successful appeal from a first instance decision to strike out an unrepresented tenant’s tenancy deposit claim. The judge below had relied on White Book commentary which was subsequently demonstrated to be incorrect. [Media coverage]

Waliezada v Dickson [2014] 3 Legal Action 22 Unlawful eviction. £12,000 award of damages at trial (and costs on an indemnity basis) despite period of homelessness being only 6 nights.


New Charter Homes v TB (County Court) Housing association’s application for injunction order (on ground of alleged drug use) defeated at trial with costs, after cross-examination of HA witnesses.

Chief Constable of Lancashire Police v Wilson & ors (County Court) Representing alleged ringleader of gang in injunction sought against 7 alleged gang members under s 34 Policing and Crime Act 2009. Proceedings discontinued by applicant after several hearings on PII and disclosure.

Community care

R (Z) v A Local Authority LA adopted unlawful policy on education transport arrangements and ceased funding arrangements for Z. On receipt of pre-action correspondence, LA restored Z’s funding and withdrew its policy.


Tom is one of the authors of the annual annotated Social Security Legislation volumes (Sweet & Maxwell). They are the standard reference work on the law of social security.

Tom’s other publications include:

Case law editor, Journal of Social Security Law.

Contributing author, Migrant support handbook (LAG, forthcoming, 2023).

‘Unacceptable in its effect and capricious in its application”: letting the light in on the anti-test case rule’ [2021] Journal of Social Security Law 28(3), 200.

Contributing author, Justice Matters (LAG, 2020).

Contributing author, Legal Aid Matters (LAG, 2019).

‘Use it or lose it – welfare benefits’ [October 2015] Legal Action 19.

Obtaining exceptional funding under LASPO’ [August 2014] Family Law.

How to expedite a social security appeal’ (2013) 235 CPAG Welfare Rights Bulletin 9.

Making the polluter pay – costs in tribunal litigation’ (2012) 7496 New Law Journal 47.

Treating volunteers as “members of an association” and the implications for English discrimination law’ (2012) 12 International Journal of Discrimination and the Law 5.

From nought to support: setting up a volunteer-based tribunal advocacy scheme’ (2012) 154 Adviser 10.

Agency workers and discrimination law: Muschett v HM Prison Service’ (2011) 40 Industrial Law Journal 92.

Privacy Notice

Tom’s privacy notice is here.


Tom is truly excellent and the foremost claimant social security counsel at the junior Bar. He has encyclopaedic knowledge of benefits law and deploys it effectively in litigation, including cases of significance to many people.The Legal 500, 2024
"Tom has an encyclopaedic knowledge of social security law and is deeply imaginative. He has a knack for turning a case about one person into one which pushes the boundaries for many."The Legal 500, 2023
"Tom is extremely intelligent, his written work is concise and he brings to his work a wider understanding and dedication to the social security field. He has an impressive work capacity."The Legal 500, 2023
"He's got very innovative ideas and he believes passionately in his cases."Chambers and Partners 2023
"He has a brilliant brain with deep and impressive knowledge, and he explains complex legal issues and develops arguments clearly."Chambers and Partners 2023
Leading Junior, Tier 1 "He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of social welfare law and EU free movement law. He is imaginative and clear."The Legal 500, 2022
Administrative and Public Law (including Civil Liberties and Human Rights) Ranked Tier 1 "Absolute understanding of the law and policy in his area of practice. Drafts beautifully and concisely. A pleasure to work with."The Legal 500 2021
Immigration: Ranked Tier 1 "Tom has developed into an extremely safe pair of hands. As well as instructing him in asylum matters, we have acted alongside him in a complex appeal relating to family members of an alleged genocidaire from Rwanda. He is receptive to new ideas, as well as bringing innovative thinking of his own to the table." Focuses on social security litigation, acting for disability benefit claimants. Royston acted for the successful intervener in the first Supreme Court case on personal independent payments. Recently handled a case on the EU Worker Registration Scheme, which proceeded to the Supreme Court where the Secretary of State’s appeal was dismissed in 2019.The Legal 500, 2021
"Clearly passionate about his work and very creative with his arguments." "He is really committed and will go the extra mile." He has particular strength in matters with some immigration or homelessness crossover. Instructed in a judicial review concerning whether the government had unlawfully restricted rights of appeal to the social security tribunal.Chambers and Partners, 2019
"He is great with vulnerable clients."Legal 500, 2019
"His advice, approach and responsiveness have all been first class." "A superstar in the making. His skeleton arguments are clear and concise, he is very bright and very pleasant." Represents individual claimants and NGOs in public law cases involving social security and welfare entitlement. He frequently handles litigation before the Upper Tribunal, the Supreme Court, as well as the European Court of Justice. Represented the Child Poverty Action Group in one of the landmark challenges to the 'bedroom tax,' which considered whether the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 discriminate against disabled children by treating a child's carer’s room as 'spare' and consequently reducing the family’s housing benefit entitlement.Chambers and Partners, 2018


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