Unsettling times

This guest blog is written by Rebecca Walker, author of the immigration and residence chapters of the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook, lead author of the Benefits for Migrants Handbook and architect of the Right to Reside Flowchart Poster.

 

If Brexit goes ahead, the consequences for social security benefit entitlements are likely to be considerable in the longer term. How quickly entitlements will change depends in large part on whether the UK leaves the European Union (EU) with or without an agreement, as any agreement is expected to entail a transition period during which rights would remain broadly the same as before the UK left. However even without Brexit having happened, there are new Brexit-related rules for claimants and advisers to understand.

In anticipation that the Draft Withdrawal Agreement would be agreed, the UK government introduced the EU Settlement Scheme as a way of implementing the rights, as set out in that agreement, of EU citizens and their family members to continue to reside in the UK after Brexit. This Scheme is already operating, has expanded to include all EEA nationals and those with derivative rights, and will continue regardless of whether, when, and how, the UK leaves the EU.

Those obtaining ‘Settled Status’ (indefinite leave) under the EU Settlement Scheme can (at the time of writing) use this status to claim all benefits that require a right to reside - including, for example, universal credit, pension credit, housing benefit and child benefit.

However those hoping to rely on ‘Pre-settled status’ (limited leave) have just, through amending legislation published this week, been written out of future entitlements. The regulations for each benefit that requires a right to reside are being amended to include in the list of excluded residence rights, those granted limited leave under the EU Settlement Scheme. This means that to be entitled to a benefit that requires a right to reside the claimant (or both claimants for a joint universal credit claim) need to have a right to reside other than ‘Pre-settled status’.

These amendments take effect from 7 May 2019. However, because the requirement to have a non-excluded right to reside is a continuing condition of entitlement, using ‘Pre-settled status’ to get benefits before 7 May will only entitle the claimant until that date.

This means that there is a continuing need for claimants and advisers to understand the complexities of when, and in what circumstances, EEA nationals, their family members and carers, who have not obtained ‘Settled Status’, have a right to reside that satisfies that requirement for the benefit(s) they need to claim.

For a comprehensive one-day training course covering these, and other, benefit rules affecting EEA nationals, book on the course ‘Benefits for EEA nationals’ running in Glasgow in Thursday 9 May and in London on Tuesday 4 June.

Advisers can contact CPAG's advice service for further help. Members of the public affected by these rules can contact Citizens Advice or other local advice agency. Citizens Advice Scotland provides a part-time specialist helpline service for EU citizens resident in Scotland, called EU Citizens Support.