With fears that the Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) will create a ‘new Windrush’ scandal, Law Centres Network has released new research to shed light on those more likely to be left behind by the Scheme. Our new report, 'Vulnerability in the EU Settlement Scheme: Looking Back, Going Forward' analyses original, previously unpublished data and raises concerns about "the melting pot of potential legal problems" that EU citizens will face now that the Scheme has officially closed for applications.
The report draws on data from over 1,000 complex EUSS cases assisted by 16 Law Centres across the country over a 15-month period. This was compared with data from earlier Law Centre projects focused on EU citizens to gauge changes in applicant make-up over time.
The new report looks at how vulnerable people with complex applications have fared in the Scheme and what must be changed to benefit those who have not yet applied. The findings confirm concerns raised from the outset about certain groups.
The proportions of children, long-term residents (>20 years) and third country nationals seeking help have all increased considerably.
A substantial part (44.3%) of Law Centre clients with complex EUSS cases were Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME), much more than their share of the general population. Over 4 in 5 third-party nationals applying for Settled Status were BAME.
1 in 11 EU citizens helped by Law Centres to apply for Settled Status struggled with mental health problems, a rate over four times greater than in previous projects aimed at the same population. Engaging these clients, mostly remotely, became much more difficult during the pandemic, which dominated the last 15 months of the Settlement Scheme.
Finally, the pandemic also made it difficult to engage with EU citizens who were homeless, which was largely due to the need to communicate remotely with people who had low levels of literacy, digital literacy or English proficiency.
To better support EU citizens in the UK, the report makes a series of recommendations: for the Home Office to provide more clarity on the ‘reasonable grounds’ for late applications to the EUSS; and to provide paper documentation to those granted Settled Status. Julie Bishop, director of the Law Centres Network, said:
"Some people were always going to struggle to apply for Settled Status, but the Home Office has little knowledge of who they are, and the EUSS was not designed with them in mind.
"From 1 July 2021, a large group of people who have lived and worked in the UK, paid their taxes, raised their children, no longer have rights to reside, to services or the benefits, to which they were entitled 3 weeks ago. This rings alarm bells.
"Late applications can be made, but the Home Office alone decides on whether to accept them. Windrush has shown us that we cannot rely on their discretionary decisions. Today we call on the Home Office to publish the criteria for acceptance of late applications. The Home Office must play its part in this, or it will store up 2 problems for these people and for public services for years to come."
For further information please contact:
Dr Kuba Jablonowski, report co-author: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07706 125 860
Tara Mariwany, Law Centres Network project co-ordinator: email@example.com
Download our report 'Vulnerability in the EU Settlement Scheme: Looking Back, Going Forward' below.