Think-tank says Government should make sure the scheme works as well as possible from the start
British Future warns of potential problems with the EU Settlement Scheme as Home Office finds second test phase was a success
24 January 2019
The think-tank British Future on Monday released a report examining the Government's EU Settlement Scheme for EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.
The report came on the same day that the Home Office published its findings into the second pilot phase of the scheme and the day on which Prime Minister unexpectedly announced that the £65 fee to apply for settled status would be scrapped.
In its report, British Future takes a comprehensive look at the potential problems with the EU Settlement Scheme and it recommends actions that the Home Office should take to make sure that the scheme works as well as possible.
The report explains: "This report makes constructive proposals that would improve the operation of the EU Settlement Scheme and make sure that EU citizens who are eligible and want to remain in the UK are included. It examines the potential barriers to securing settled status, the groups most likely to be affected and the early actions that the Home Office should take to make sure that the system works as well as possible. In particular, this report sets out five key commitments that the Home Office should make to help get it right from the start: investing in the system; getting information to hard-to-reach groups through effective communications; building trust and accountability through greater transparency; providing redress when mistakes are made; and making a British citizenship offer to EU citizens."
British Future says the successful delivery of the EU Settlement Scheme is an important test for the Home Office: "Get it right and the UK sends a strong message that EU citizens are welcome and the Government is in control. Get it wrong and the consequences could be dire."
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey MP warned: "British Future is right to highlight the grave risks that Brexit poses to the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. No one seriously believes that the Home Office will be able to grant settled status to everyone who's eligible within two years. Thousands will be left effectively undocumented and subject to Theresa May's hostile environment."
Davey said EU citizens must not become the victims of a new Windrush scandal.
Also on Monday, the Home Office published a report on the 'private beta phase 2' of the EU Settlement Scheme which ran from 1 November 2018.
The Home Office finds the second pilot phase was a success: "Feedback from applicants on the speed and ease of the application process has been positive. By 14 January 2019, 27,211 decisions had been made and issued, with no cases refused. The technology has performed well and the caseworking experience has also been positive."
A survey was completed by over 1,300 applicants and the report states: "Most applicants who completed the feedback survey found the application form easy to complete. In total, 77% of applicants, when asked how easy or not it was to complete their application form, reported that it was very or fairly easy, and 70% of applicants agreed that the application form was quicker than expected to complete and a further 13% neither agreed nor disagreed that this was so. In total, 80% of applicants would either speak highly (61%) or give a neutral response (19%) about the application process if asked."
The Home Office said that feedback from the test phase has led to several changes to the application process and the information that is provided to applicants.
The next public beta testing phase of the EU Settlement Scheme began on Monday and is open to resident EU citizens (and EU citizen family members) with a valid passport as a national of that EU country and to their non-EU citizen family members with a biometric residence card.
The EU Settlement Scheme is planned to open fully by 30 March 2019.
Nath Gbikpi, a solicitor at Wesley Gryk, yesterday updated her useful and comprehensive guide on how to apply for settled status. You can read the guide here on the Free Movement website.
Gbikpi is a dual French and Italian national and the guide is now informed by her own personal experience in applying. She says: "My personal experience was that there are some technical hiccups with the system at the moment, but most people should find the application reasonably easy. I expect that people who are vulnerable in some way and/or have less evidence of their past residence in the UK — e.g. if they have never worked or accessed benefits — may struggle more with an application and need help."
Another useful read is a Q&A on settled status here on The Conversation website with Adrienne Yong of the City Law School at City, University of London. The article considers what settled status means, and how would it change if the UK left the EU without a deal.
Meanwhile, Theresa May announced in the House of Commons on Monday that the planned £65 application fee would now be scrapped.
The Prime Minister said: "I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30 March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. Anyone who has applied during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed."