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Government urged to ‘avoid criminalisation’ of EU care workers amid concerns over settlement scheme

·3-min read
Bodies representing the care sector in the UK have written to the prime minister about concerns over the EU settlement scheme deadline (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Bodies representing the care sector in the UK have written to the prime minister about concerns over the EU settlement scheme deadline (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The government has been urged to “avoid criminalisation” of EU care workers by scrapping the deadline for a post-Brexit settlement scheme or exempting this group.

Organisations representing the sector claimed a “substantial number” of care workers were “still not fully aware” of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

EU citizens and their families have until 30 June to apply for the scheme if they want to keep living in the UK, with their current legal status and rights set to expire after this date due to Brexit.

Charities urged the Home Office earlier this month to scrap the deadline for applications to avoid seeing tens of thousands becoming undocumented overnight.

Now, five bodies representing the care sector have raised “serious concerns” over the impact of the scheme and its deadline - which is just over a week away.

In a letter, the groups said there was a “clear lack of knowledge/awareness” among EU care workers and employers about what they need to do.

They said this was mainly caused by “poor engagement and communication” from the Home Office, according to the signatories, which includes the CEOs of Care England, Scottish Care and the Institute of Health and Social Care Management.

The groups said they were worried care workers who were unaware of the scheme or its deadline would not meet the government’s “reasonable groups” threshold for late applications.

“Crucially, even in cases where the guidance provides a route back to status, this is not a solution to making people undocumented,” their letter to the prime minister said.

“Loss of legal status, barriers to accessing services, liability to criminal penalties for continuing to work and exposure to potential detention and removal creates huge and potentially life-ruining risks.”

The organisations from the care sector said: “We ask that the EUSS deadline must be lifted or at the very least an exemption for Care Workers must be put in place prior to the 30 June 2021 deadline.

They added: “This would secure their settled status and avoid criminalisation of migrant EU workers as well as employers.”

The group - which also includes the National Care Association’s executive chair and the head of the Care Workers’ Charity - also said EU care workers make up 12 per cent of the sector workforce.

Caitlin Boswell from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: “EU care workers and other key workers – the very people we have relied on over the past year – are in real danger of slipping through the cracks in the scheme.”

She added: “Significant numbers of EU care workers falling out of status will devastate the care industry in the middle of a pandemic. It’s more urgent than ever that the government acts now to lift the EUSS deadline.”

Succesful applicants to the EU settlement scheme will receive settled or pre-settled status, which carries the right to work, study, use the NHS and access public funds in the UK.

MPs and peers warned last month thousands of EU citizens risked losing their legal status in the UK due to the scheme’s dadline, claiming a government outreach campaign has struggled to reach sufficient numbers.

Also in late May, The Independent revealed there had been a surge in EU nationals and their families requesting help amid the EU settlement scheme’s looming deadline.

A government spokesperson said: “International staff from across the world make an outstanding contribution to our health and social care sector and this has been especially true during the pandemic.”

They added: “We have been clear we want international staff already working in the UK to stay and feel welcomed and encouraged to do so, and we’ve worked hard to promote the EU settlement scheme across the sector over the last two and a half years.”

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