Thousands of care workers at risk of losing legal status overnight due to Brexit

A third of care workers are unaware of the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), which could have “devastating” impact on the sector, a major immigration charity has warned.

25/01/21

Thousands of care workers at risk of losing legal status overnight due to Brexit

Many care workers from the EU are at risk from losing their right to live and work in the UK, with nearly a third unaware of the 30 June 2021 deadline, a new report has warned.

The Joint Council for The Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has warned that social care workers from the continent could fall through the cracks of the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme, with potentially thousands of workers at risk of losing their immigration status overnight.

The scheme is the Government’s process for people from the European Economic Area (EEA+) – all EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – achieving either pre-settled or settled status in the UK following Brexit.

It allows EEA+ citizens the right to work in the UK, utilise the NHS, enrol in the education system, and enter and leave the country.

The report warns that a lack of awareness surrounding the Scheme, its implications for EU citizens, and the existence of the June deadline was down to the Home Office’s “insufficient” outreach to those who might be affected.

The survey found that many of those asked did not know what they needed to do in order to comply with the scheme, with 64% of care workers who were aware of the EUSS admitting they did not fully understand what it was.

The Government’s “reliance on charities and employers to fill the gaps [of awareness of the scheme] is unrealistic and dangerous”, determined the report.

Concerns have also been raised around the “inadequate” level of support available for those applying to the EUSS.

Just 10% of all those surveyed said they knew where to find support and advice for how to apply to the scheme, whilst nearly 80% of those who had taken part in the EUSS felt that additional support was important to a successful application.

The JCWI has called for “urgent action” from the Government as there remains “a very real possibility” that the scheme will result in large numbers could lead to large numbers of care workers facing criminal charges.

The charity suggests that the effects of the pandemic and apparent issues with awareness of the EUSS mean the deadline should be lifted to allow for EU care workers to aid with the fight against Covid-19 without fear of losing their rights, and to allow time for effective support for those who will need to use the scheme.

As well as lifting the deadline, the JCWI has called for all EEA+ workers resident in the UK before the end of December 2020 to be granted automatic settled status to avoid tens of thousands of people potentially becoming criminalised after June 2021.

EUSS cases should also fall within the scope of legal aid, physical documentations should be introduced, additional guidance for late applications should be published and those under pre-settled status should be automatically upgraded to settled, says the charity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored just how much our communities, our economy and our health depend on workers considered by some to be “low skilled,” said the report.

“Workers who put their lives and their families’ lives at risk daily to care for others. Workers who now face the real prospect of losing their legal status in the UK overnight.

“With so much at stake for so many, the Government must do everything in its power to protect the rights of EEA+ citizens resident in the UK. Instead, it is refusing to address the risks and cannot measure whether the scheme is working for all EEA+ citizens,” the report concluded.

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