The Law Society has warned many vulnerable EU citizens may lose essential rights at midnight on 30 June if immediate action is not taken, as the settled status application deadline draws nearer.
The majority of EU citizens are required to apply for settled status by 30 June; however, the Law Society has said many EU citizens are unaware of the need to apply or mistakenly believe they are not required to.
The Law Society said solicitors have reported many of their clients who are eligible, are unaware they need to register under the scheme, which is indicative of a wider issue.
This is a particular issue with the most vulnerable of individuals – the elderly, children and young people in care, homeless people and those who don’t speak English well, as well as people with mental or physical disabilities.
Law Society president, I. Stephanie Boyce, said: “EU citizens under the care of local authorities and in residential homes are among those most likely to find themselves without access to essential support when the deadline for applying for EU settled status (EUSS) passes”.
Boyce added that EU citizens who do not apply before the deadline will become unlawfully resident overnight. These citizens risk losing their jobs, bank accounts, tenancies, access to the NHS and welfare benefits.
Boyce explained: “Some may be able to apply late with a ‘reasonable excuse’, but in the interim a new home or job may be at risk as ‘right to rent’ checks by landlords or ‘right to work’ checks by prospective employers would flag applicants as ineligible. People may also find themselves barred from essential health, social or welfare support.”
Some mistakenly believe they do not need to apply – for example, those who have permanent residence, but not UK citizenship, or those who believe their UK-born children have automatic citizenship.
A survey of local government bodies with responsibility for children’s services found that, as at 23 April 2021, 33 per cent of the 3,660 looked after children and care leavers identified as eligible to apply for EUSS had not yet applied.
I. Stephanie Boyce said: “Solicitors working for local authorities are concerned about the responsibilities local authorities owe to these and other EU and EEA citizens who have not applied for the scheme in time for the deadline. This would leave them unable to access state support.
“Local authorities require increased guidance and resources for making human rights assessments to be able to support an unprecedented number of vulnerable people from becoming destitute.
She concluded: “Clear contingency plans are urgently needed to prevent mass disenfranchisement overnight on 30 June.
“The UK government is acting to alert EU citizens of the deadline and has granted funding to organisations that support such people in accessing the scheme, but there will inevitably be those who fall through the cracks and the implications for each one of them could be shattering, as the Windrush generation testify.”