Alastair Stewart slams the UK's benefits system
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EU Settlement Scheme claimants, so long as they were eligible, were granted settled or pre-settled status in the UK following the Brexit vote. Both of these statuses allow European citizens to gain access to state benefits, pensions and NHS services and going forward, the DWP will provide additional assistance.
Claims to the EU Settlement Scheme could originally only be made up until June 30, 2021. However, following unprecedented last minute demand, the Home Office and DWP confirmed late applications would be accepted if there were valid reasons for a delay.
In July, the DWP said: “EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members can make a late application to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK. You must apply as soon as possible. You must have started living in the UK by December 31, 2020.”
The Government explained a person can still apply for the EU Settlement Scheme if they had “reasonable grounds” for why the deadline was missed or, they had certain extenuating circumstances.
Following these announcements, the Home Office also confirmed it would work to make the entire system more streamlined for applicants. Yesterday, the DWP made additional commitments.
In early September, Kate Osamor, the Labour (Co-op) MP for Edmonton, asked the DWP when the department “plans to stop the universal credit and legacy benefit claims of individuals who qualify for EU Settled Status but have not yet applied for that scheme?”
Yesterday, Chloe Smith, the Minister of State at the DWP, confirmed the EU Settlement Scheme continues to provide claimants with settled or pre-settled statuses and thus far, more than six million applications have been received.
Ms Smith went on to break down how the Government plans to be especially welcoming to claimants going forward.
“There is scope to make a late application based on reasonable grounds for missing the deadline,” she said.
“The Home Office has also released guidance for late applications and reiterated their general approach under the EUSS which is to look to grant status, rather than looking for reasons to refuse. Those covered by the Withdrawal Agreement who submit a late application to the EUSS will also be able to access benefits and services, if they are eligible, from the point their application is validated, and identity has been verified.”
Ms Smith explained the DWP has worked with the Home Office and HMRC to “undertake further engagement activities and give those without status further opportunity to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.”
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Ms Smith confirmed claimants who fail to make a late application will not have entitlement to benefits “unless, and until” they apply.
However, in concluding, it was highlighted what the Government will be prioritising going forward.
“The Department is however taking all reasonable steps to engage claimants and provide them with multiple opportunities to apply before taking compliance action,” she said.
“This includes engaging with relevant customers through scheduled face to face and telephony contact, and Universal Credit (UC) journal prompts. The Department’s visiting service is also available for those customers who are identified as the most vulnerable.”
A recent policy paper published by the Government showed some claimants may be granted unlimited leeway. On September 22, the FCDO published a report on residence rights implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The joint report provided “an update on implementation progress in relation to Article 18(1) (issuance of residence documents – new residence status and reasonable grounds for late applications) of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) in the European Union and the UK.”
For late applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme, the report explained: “In line with the WA, there remains scope, indefinitely, for a person eligible for status under the scheme to make a late application to the scheme where, in light of all the circumstances and reasons, there are reasonable grounds for their failure to meet the deadline applicable to them.”
The Government has set out a non-exhaustive list of what could be considered reasonable grounds for late applications which includes the following:
- Where a parent, guardian or Local Authority has failed to apply on behalf of a child
- Where a person has or had a serious medical condition, which meant they were unable to apply by the relevant deadline
- Where someone is a victim of modern slavery or is in an abusive relationship
- Where someone is isolated, vulnerable or did not have the digital skills to access the application process
- Where a person was unable to apply by the relevant deadline for compelling practical or compassionate reasons – including in light of the coronavirus pandemic
UK benefits in Europe
The EU Withdrawal Agreement has also set out the terms in which UK citizens can receive British benefits across Europe. Going forward, British retirees can continue receiving their UK state pension if they move to live in the EU, EEA or Switzerland. The state pensions will also continue to rise every year in line with the rates paid in the UK for those living in the EU.
Additionally, so long as a claimant is eligible, the following benefits and payments can be paid in the EU:
- Bereavement Support Payment and other bereavement benefits
- industrial injuries benefits
- Maternity Allowance
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- Statutory Paternity Pay
- Statutory Sick Pay
Relevant social security contributions made in an EU country can be used to help people qualify for some UK benefits while they are in the UK, which includes New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance and New Style Employment and Support Allowance.
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