EU Settlement Scheme: BASW writes to Home Secretary
Dr Ruth Allen, BASW CEO, urges the Government to extend the deadline for the EUSS and create a more supportive environment for those who come forward
The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
Dear Home Secretary,
RE: EU Settlement Scheme
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is the professional membership organisation for more than 22,000 social workers across the UK. All our members subscribe to the BASW Code of Ethics which is based on the definition of social work by the International Federation of Social Work. This Code of Ethics is underpinned by a respect for human rights and a commitment to promoting social justice and its values based on respect for the equality, worth and dignity of all people.
As you will be aware, the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is set to close on 30th June 2021. In the period that the EUSS has been open, the country has been understandably focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic will also have had a huge impact on local authority priorities and has significantly dominated the news cycle which may have prevented information about the EUSS from being disseminated.
We are concerned that time is running out and many looked after children, young people, and vulnerable people who access social work services could lose their rights because they have not applied. We are asking that the Government recognises the barriers to engagement that exist, preventing many hard-to-reach people from carrying out tasks such as registering with the EUSS. For example, recognising that a child cannot take responsibility for their own immigration status, the Government must ensure that those who turn 18 whilst resident in the UK are given the opportunity to apply to the EUSS without fear of deportation or removal of rights. Social workers can advocate, inform, and defend the right of people that they work with, but we need local and national Government to step up, accept responsibility and take action to prevent any child from having no legal status in the UK as of 1st July.
If a child or young person does not have an application submitted on their behalf by the deadline, they may find themselves, through no fault of their own, immediately being cut off from essential services and support. The current or future loss of a right to work, to rent, to hold a bank account or a driving license. Any period of unlawful residency will have serious impacts on future applications for citizenship and if a young person has ambitions to attend university, this could impact their eligibly for student finance. They could also face deportation from the UK.
Whilst children are a key group that will be most impacted by not applying to the EUSS before the deadline, there are many groups within wider society that need support and not punishment. These include people without mental capacity to decide on their residency arrangements, people with additional needs such as learning disabilities and/or autistic people, young people experiencing exploitation or abuse who may also be out of touch with services – and many more.
Social workers have seen first-hand that there are significant obstacles in the way of ensuring that everyone who needs to sign up to the scheme has done so. The difficulty of accessing support and advice has been worsened by the disruptions to social care and other support during the pandemic.
There is also a large number of people in Roma communities who are unaware of the EUSS and the implications of not submitting an application and often an issue with Roma people not having the required documents to prove their identity. Minoritised and stigmatised communities such as Roma face particular prejudices that make it all the more difficult for people to come forward.
Extending the deadline and providing a supportive environment that reassures people who need to register themselves is the right way forward.
The pandemic has changed all our lives over the past 18 months, including how effectively we can communicate with people who are already hard-to-reach. Extending the deadline and providing a supportive, welcoming environment for people to still come forward after the deadline is a necessary step in ensuring the most in need of support engage with the scheme.
With best wishes,
Dr Ruth Allen
Chief Executive, BASW UK