Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
The Rt Hon Mel Stride MP
12 July 2023
I am writing on behalf of EU citizens living in the UK to urge your Government to do more to protect the rights of those who have made their home in our country – and particularly with regards to the barriers that people with pre-settled status face when trying to access welfare support, and the limitations of digital-only evidence of status.
Addressing the barriers to welfare for pre-settled status holders:
As you will be aware, the right to reside test as a requirement to gain eligibility for Universal Credit is a significant problem for EU citizens and their families. Recent figures show that 3,500 applications for Universal Credit by EEA nationals are being refused every month. Although individuals can appeal DWP decisions, doing so comes at a significant cost in terms of money and time for individuals, the DWP, and the courts.
Given that the UK Government has repeatedly expressed that EU citizens are "our friends, our colleagues, and we want you to stay," it seems utterly incomprehensible that pre-settled status is not considered sufficient to satisfy the right to reside requirement. Pre-settled status demonstrates a person's right to live in the UK and access vital services such as Universal Credit, in line with the rights afforded to British citizens.
This would be a straightforward change to make ( the amendment to the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 could be reversed through a simple introduction of secondary legislation to remove pre-settled status from the list of immigration statuses), would transform a significant number of lives and would demonstrate that the UK really does value the EU citizens that have made their homes here.
Alternatives to digital status:
The Home Office’s own 2018 report 'Prove Your Right to Work' presents strong evidence that relying on a digital-only service to prove status would cause numerous issues among "low digital users"
There are several problems associated with digital only evidence of status, for example it excludes people who cannot access the internet themselves or lack access to technology. There’s well documented evidence of technical problems from the Home Office's side, with organisations such as 3million pointing to individuals receiving error messages when attempting to log in, and the Home Office helpline being difficult to locate for anyone who lacks digital or language literacy skills, as well as staff poorly equipped to provide suitable support when they do manage to use it.
Put simply, digital only status is discriminatory. It’s also very easy to resolve by eg providing individuals with an app containing a secure QR code (similar to the Covid app used during the pandemic). This could feature military-grade security to prevent impersonation. Additionally, a physical version could also be created, allowing individuals to download or print the QR code or obtain a physical card issued from the Home Office on request, as a cost-effective and quick to implement solution.
The Government’s long running failure to remove either of these unfair obstacles for EU citizens is yet more evidence of the hostile environment the Home Office insists it wants to end. I sincerely hope that you will take long overdue action to redress these wrongs and look forward to receiving your response.