19 Apr 2021

Thousands of European nationals could miss out on housing and benefits

Time is running out! European nationals living in the UK have just a few weeks left to apply to the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to regularise their status now that Brexit has brought an end to ‘free movement’ under previous EU laws. All European citizens living in the UK who come from EU countries or the wider European Economic Area must have applied by 30 June. If they don’t, they risk losing their rights to welfare payments and housing, and possibly even their right to stay in the UK.

Over five million EEA nationals have applied to the EUSS already, but we can't be sure how many still need to apply. Settled, the NGO helping EU citizens to stay in the UK after Brexit, reports receiving hundreds of calls each week from people who are experiencing problems or who have just found out that they need to apply. Some have lived in the UK for decades and have assumed they don’t need to apply.

The perils of the process were given sharp focus by the case of Dahaba Ali, who has lived in the UK for half her life yet her application to the EUSS was rejected. She even works with The3Million campaign which argues for the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

Particular problems face European children who are in local authority care, with warnings that they could become 'undocumented' adults if authorities do not apply to the EUSS on their behalf. Only some 39% of such children have applied so far, and once they turn 18 they face either deportation or enormous costs to rectify their status, even if they have always lived in the UK. The Observer says a new Windrush is in the making if these children end up on the streets, jobless or being deported for not having the right papers.

A recent report on care workers, by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, showed that many still do not know about the EUSS deadline. JCWI surveyed 290 social care workers, mostly eastern Europeans, and found that as many as one in three had never heard of the scheme. Adult social services directors, ADASS, ran a webinar with the Housing LIN on this topic which you can watch here.

JCWI is taking the Home Office to court over the harshness of the deadline which could affect thousands of vulnerable people whose home is in the UK. The first hearing in the case was on March 11, when lawyers argued that the Home Secretary is failing to meet her duties under the Equality Act. The court rejected the argument, which will now go to appeal.

Social landlords have been urged to raise awareness of the EUSS and help people apply, whether they be staff members or residents. Many already have: the housing rights newsletters have featured the work of Monmouthshire Housing Association in Wales and Queens Cross HA in Scotland, both working with vulnerable European residents.

The National Housing Federation’s Suzannah Young explained how social landlords can take action in the October housing rights newsletter. The NHF also has updated guidance for housing organisations on how to help EU nationals apply to the scheme. And if you need information on the housing rights of those with settled status (or pre-settled status) under the EUSS, or who have not yet to apply, you can find details of entitlements on the CIH and BMENational Housing Rights website.

This article is based on one in the April 2021 Housing Rights newsletter. Head to the Housing Rights website today to sign up to the newsletters so you can keep in touch with news on housing and benefits issues facing migrants to the UK.