Halting benefit payments to European citizens living in the UK who have not yet applied for settled status is “unnecessary” and could force some into homelessness, the Work and Pensions Secretary has been told.
Jenny Gilruth, Europe minister with the Scottish Government, raised her concerns about the move in a letter to Therese Coffey.
After the UK left the European Union, EU nationals were given until June 30 to apply for settled status – with this giving them the right to live, work and study in Britain, as well as use the NHS and receive any benefits they might be eligible for.
Gilruth said that after the deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) had passed, the Department for Work and Pensions continued to make social security payments to EU citizens who had not done so.
But, in a letter to Coffey, she said she understood that the UK Government is “suspending these payments at the end of September and discontinue them completely from the end of October”.
‘Unnecessary and disproportionate’
The Scottish Government minister warned of the possible consequences of this, saying it was “essential” than an impact assessment be carried out.
She said: “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.”
Gilruth continued: “Action to stop payments is unnecessary and disproportionate with a clear risk of harm to people who require our support.”
She called on the UK Government to “continue providing ongoing social security payments to EU citizens until they have applied to the EUSS”.
This would allow “our EU citizen friends and family to continue living their lives with the dignity and respect that they deserve”, the minister insisted.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We continue to use every possible channel, including letters, telephone calls, texts, and the direct contact our frontline staff have with their customers, to encourage those who are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
“By doing so, they can secure their status so they can continue to reside, work, study and access services and benefits in the UK.
“Nearly 5 million people have been given status through the hugely successful EU Settlement Scheme to date, with thousands more cases granted every week. Letters are being sent to those who may still need to apply to let them know how to urgently put in a late application.”