EU care workers are at risk of being criminalised if the government fails to lift the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) deadline, care leaders have warned the Prime Minister.
There are just eight days to go before the government’s deadline for EUSS – which guarantees post-Brexit residency – closes on June 30.
Today, five of the UK’s leading care representatives, including the Care Workers’ Charity and Care England, have written to Boris Johnson to notify him that EU care workers could lose their legal status and rights if he fails to lift the deadline.
Other signatories include the National Care Association, Scottish Care and the Institute of Health and Social Care Management, representing hundreds of care providers and thousands of care workers in all parts of the UK.
They write that there is “no doubt” that the EUSS will “heavily impact” the social care sector, with a substantial number of care workers and employers still not fully aware of the scheme.
Caitlin Boswell, project officer for EU Citizens’ Rights at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “In just over a week, the EUSS deadline will force tens of thousands of EU citizens out of status and into the Hostile Environment. EU citizens who miss the deadline will lose the right to rent, access free healthcare and could be criminalised for working.
“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. 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.”
In a report published in January, the JCWI has accused the government of not doing enough to make sure EU care workers are aware of the EUSS scheme.
As a result, the care sector faces being “devastated” at a time when it is already under significant pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report warned.
Signatories of today’s letter are concerned that care workers who are still unaware of the EUSS deadline will not meet the “reasonable grounds” threshold for late applications.
The Home Office states that its “benefit of the doubt” approach will become stricter with time and historically, the department has taken an extremely inflexible approach towards reasonable grounds, the letter warns.
“Crucially, even in cases where the guidance provides a route back to status, this is not a solution to making people undocumented,” the letter goes on to say. “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.”
Karolina Gerlich, CEO of the Care Workers’ Charity, commented: “The Care Workers’ Charity is extremely concerned about the impact of the immigration policy on the social care workforce- there are already huge staff shortages in the sector, and the additional shortages caused directly by this policy will have a devastating impact of on the wellbeing of existing care teams, and on the quality of care provided. It is therefore urgent and necessary for the policy to be changed.”
Click here for advise on what employers can do to support staff in meeting the EUSS deadline.