Yesterday, 16 September 2020, Migrants Organise and The 3 Million wrote to the Secretary of State for the Home Department and other Government ministers to set out our strong concerns regarding the ability of people with limited mental capacity to access the EU Settlement Scheme.
While much public attention has been directed towards the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures, Brexit will still happen at the end of the year. The Government has introduced the EU Settlement Scheme to allow all individuals from all EU countries to easily obtain a clear status in the UK post-Brexit. Individuals are given until 30 June 2021 next year to apply either for a “settled” or a “pre-settled” status.
Unfortunately there is currently no clear policy or guidance on how individuals with disabilities which affect their mental capacity can effectively access the EU Settlement Scheme.
Over the past two and a half years, Migrants Organise has worked closely with individuals with mental health problems who are unable to engage with the immigration process – they might not understand what “immigration status” means, or recall their own personal immigration history. In some instances, this is due to mental health illnesses, including age-related conditions such as dementia. Research by Age UK suggests that 7% of the population in the UK aged 65 and over have dementia, which means that an estimated 7,700 EU citizens over the age of 65 will have difficulties accessing the scheme. (1)
These individuals, and many more, are therefore at high risk of missing the Government’s deadline to access the scheme meaning that they may become undocumented and left without any status here in the UK after 30 June 2021. (2) This will subject thousands more people to the full brunt of the Hostile Environment policy – which has already been shown to force many people into poverty and destitution, foster racism and discrimination, and prevent people from accessing the basic support that they need to live – including healthcare. (3) In full, this means:
- They will be subject to removal proceedings, including indefinite immigration detention
- They will be unable to claim any public benefits, including disability benefits and pension credit. It will also be a criminal offence for them to work (even if they could, given their disabilities).
- They will not be allowed to rent.
- They will be unable to claim housing assistance from local authorities.
- They will be excluded from obtaining care from social services
- They will be unable to have a bank account.
We and 33 other organisations across the country, including the AIRE centre, JCWI And Liberty, as well as councillors from the Islington Council, have therefore asked the Government to provide clear guidance and policy on this issue. You can see our full letter here.
We will continue to push the government until an effective system is put in place for individuals with mental health issues. For more information about our work on mental capacity and the immigration process, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us on Twitter to stay updated with the latest information.
(1) Research by Age UK, which is not specific to EU citizens, suggests that 7% of the population int the UK aged 65 or over have dementia.
(2) See JCWI’s submission to the ICIBI Inspection on how the EUSS is working for vulnerable groups.
(3) For more information on the Hostile Environment and its impact, see IPPR’s recent “Access Denied” report.