New research released by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has shown the ‘real danger’ of EU and EEA citizens being ‘left behind’ by the EU Settlement Scheme. In the grip of a pandemic, JCWI has warned it is unacceptable that a large number of the care work force would be included in those left undocumented.
The UK Home Office has already claimed the success of the EU Settlement Scheme, which opened in March 2019, as over 4 million applications have already been made with the deadline five months away, in June this year.
Despite the Home Office have stated they have made £17 million available to organisations that ‘support the most vulnerable’, JCWI’s research found however that these definitions of who may be at risk were ‘too narrow’. When surveying 295 care workers, they found 1 in 7 ‘did not know’ or were ‘not sure’ when the deadline was.
With non-UK nationals making up 16% of care workers, and 113,000 EU citizens, Caroline Abrahams of Age UK stated this would ‘risk making an already difficult situation even worse’ for the social care sector.
Representatives from the field have issued dire warnings across last year as the pandemic ravaged an already ailing sector. The Royal College of Nursing and Unison the trade union among others made clear their concerns over staffing numbers and low resilience in social care and the disappointment at general government attitudes. This came in the wake of announcements that most migrants in care roles would not meet the salary level needed to apply for the new skilled worker visa under the points-based immigration rules changes.
Despite Home Office claims about wide-ranging support on offer, nine in ten care workers surveyed in person did not know where to go for advice on applying to the scheme. JCWI have claimed that the government’s reliance on charities to ‘fill the gaps’ is dangerous and risks leaving many more behind, as third sector organisations struggle with the economic impact of coronavirus.
In October last year, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster in a Home Office press release declared the scheme ‘hugely successful’ when this milestone was surpassed. The scheme has made use of ‘cutting edge’ technology and launched an app for people to check their status from home.
When surveying 295 care workers, they found 1 in 7 ‘did not know’ or were ‘not sure’ when the deadline was
However organisations such as JCWI have agreed that while for many the scheme is straightforward, it could create a new population of tens of thousands of irregular and undocumented migrants in the UK, subject to even more hostile environment policies.
It has already been reported that jobs advertised on the government online portal for the Department of Work and Pensions already break the Home Office’s own guidance not to ask for proof of settled status of job applicants before the settlement scheme deadline of 30th June 2021. Up until then, passports and national identity cards were supposed to be ample proof of citizenship and right to work.
One such role, put up by a cleaning company says candidates must provide ‘EU settled status code or EU Pre-Settled Status Code’. The job postings seem to point to the potential for confusion over the guidelines for companies and the risk for people caught in the middle and discriminated against when searching for employment.
JCWI have agreed that while for many the scheme is straightforward, it could create a new population of tens of thousands of irregular and undocumented migrants in the UK
JCWI’s findings for the care sector could be reflected therefore across multiple sectors that rely on low paid, contract, and often insecure work; the ‘key workers’ that have often battled on the frontlines of the UK’s hospitals, care homes, and schools throughout the pandemic.
As the public health crisis rages on, JCWI calls for a lift on the June deadline, to allow sectors such as social care time and resources to support its staff in ways it hasn’t been able to in the past year to ensure people do not lose status overnight.
[Header Image: Independent]