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Letter from the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Jenny Gilruth MSP to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about adult EU citizens benefit claimants who have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
I write regarding EU citizen benefit claimants who have yet to apply to the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). In 2016, Scotland voted to remain in the EU. We deeply regret the UK Government’s decision to choose a hard Brexit and to end free movement. We are now beginning to see the impacts of these choices on EU citizens, particularly on the most vulnerable.
Since the EUSS deadline, which the UK Government refused to extend, passed on 30 June 2021, you have continued to make payments of ongoing social security entitlements to EU citizens who have not yet applied to the EUSS. I understand that you will start suspending these payments at the end of September and discontinue them completely from the end of October.
It is essential that the UK Government undertakes an impact assessment, before any action to terminate ongoing social security payments is taken. Given the potential impact on individuals and communities in Scotland it is crucial that this risk assessment and updated data on the numbers of individuals that may be impacted is shared with the Scottish Government.
I am concerned that vulnerable citizens in Scotland will have their payments stopped. Poor literacy, a lack of knowledge of English, mental and physical illnesses and disability are all reasons why someone may not have applied to the EUSS. Terminating benefits may lead to homelessness, destitution, hunger and poor physical and mental health. Action to stop payments is unnecessary and disproportionate with a clear risk of harm to people who require our support.
This problem could have been avoided had the UK Government chosen to operate a declaratory residency system rather than one where individuals have to apply to retain their rights. The Withdrawal Agreement allowed the UK to choose which system to adopt. Any harm suffered by benefit claimants will therefore be directly attributable to the UK Government.
Given the above I call on you to continue providing ongoing social security payments to EU citizens until they have applied to the EUSS. This will enable our EU citizen friends and family to continue living their lives with the dignity and respect that they deserve. I also urge the UK Government to extend support to the grant funded organisations in Scotland that help EU citizens apply to the EUSS.
I am copying this letter to my colleague Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Social Security and Local Government, and Kevin Foster MP, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration.