How charities can help EU citizens they support to access Settled Status and why it’s important

Our Public Afffairs and Programmes Officer Rachel Cain writes how charities can help vulnerable people they support access EU Settled Status, even if they do not specialise in migration issues

After months of uncertainty about Brexit, we now know that we’re leaving the EU. But a big question that has remained less discussed is what this means in practical terms for our friends, family members, colleagues or neighbours in our communities across the UK, who are EU citizens. Charities can play a vital role in starting this conversation with the people they work with.

Even if someone has lived in the UK for a long time, they may still need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. This is the Government’s scheme to ensure that EU, EEA or Swiss citizens and their families living in the UK will have their rights safeguarded after Brexit.

Yet it has been estimated that almost 1 million people living in the UK still have yet to apply. Anyone who doesn’t manage to apply successfully before the deadline could be left in a very vulnerable position. This could mean individuals, partners, families or children who’ve lived in the UK for a long time finding themselves at risk of being deported from their home in the UK.

This is perhaps most worrying for those people who aren’t even aware that they need to apply for Settled Status, or who face additional barriers in doing so. Anyone who is facing challenges in their life at the moment – whether through mental ill health, disability or living in a precarious situation, for example – could be particularly at risk of missing out.

For example, the default way of applying for Settled Status is through a digital app – but what does this mean for anyone who can’t access this or doesn’t know where to get a paper application? Older people or those with limited digital literacy may find it more difficult to apply without additional support. People who are vulnerably housed could also be left unable to access services or work, at risk of further exclusion or even deportation, if they aren’t aware of the scheme or supported to apply. Ultimately, anyone who finds it more difficult to navigate systems, processes and understand their rights more broadly, could fall through the net.

It’s really important that charities of all kinds and in all communities across the UK – whether supporting people with mental health, homelessness, learning disability or domestic abuse – are able to start this conversation with the people they work with who are EU Citizens. We know that local charities in communities across the UK are uniquely well-placed and experienced at reaching people who aren’t reached by other services. They are fantastic at helping people to understand their rights, navigate systems and access the support they’re entitled to.

Your charity certainly doesn’t need to be an expert in migration issues and you don’t need to provide this support directly – but you can play a vital role in pointing people towards where they can access this support. The Government has funded several organisations to provide advice and assistance to EU citizens who are at risk of missing out and helping them to apply for Settled Status. Charities can help by connecting people they work with to the support offered by these organisations.

So how should you start this conversation with people who you think may be at risk? And how can you find out where they can access support? You can watch our webinar hosted with New Europeans below to find out more.