EU Citizens face dysfunctional settlement scheme

Five months have passed since the deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. By this point, all EU citizens who call the UK their home, needed to have applied to retain their rights in the UK under the scheme. Upon successful application, they were granted either Settled Status (if they had been resident in the country for more than five years), or Pre-Settled Status (less than five years).


But many people remain at immediate risk of losing access to vital services and their rights, including young children and elderly people, due to backlogs in processing, poorly-explained or unjustified refusals, and the challenges of a digital system.

At the last count, there were almost 400,000 people still waiting to find out if they can continue to live in the UK. This winter, hundreds of thousands of EU citizens face the prospect of beginning the new year without the rights they had been promised.

The system is simply not working and not protecting the agreed, legal rights of EU citizens. Settled is the only charity solely focused on addressing these issues.

The backlog in decision-making isn’t the only obstacle facing a peaceful life for EU citizens in the UK. Many of those who applied with paper applications still haven’t even been given the ‘Certificates of Application’ that secure their rights until a decision is made. Settled is chasing such cases for a result, with urgency.

And although millions have already received a positive decision, there are rising numbers of refusals for Pre-Settled or Settled Status. We’re working to resolve issues and secure status for as many of these individuals as possible.

Digital desert

The EU Settlement Scheme is a digital-only scheme. More and more people who are not digitally literate are coming to us when they have issues with viewing and proving digital Pre-Settled/Settled Status. We’re highlighting these issues and pushing for change at policy level – we want a physical proof to be an option.

Sadly, those most likely to face the above difficulties are those least equipped to resolve them – for example people who are elderly and isolated.

One of our greatest concerns about the impact of this situation is the risk that vulnerable people, including children, elderly and disabled people and those not digitally literate may fail to access key services such as healthcare and welfare.

All employers, landlords, hospitals, local authorities and job centres are now required to ask for proof of immigration status. We see many cases where this is met with suspicion and the person’s rights are refused, given that other immigrants will have paper documents such as passports or residence cards.

Family separation risks

This worrying scenario is made significantly worse as many of those coming to us for help not only have to manage their own immigration status but also the status of their children. We’re dealing with many cases where families risk being torn apart.

If these issues are not addressed we believe we could see the creation of a new underclass of EU citizen living in the UK. Unable to access work, health and welfare services, vulnerable to exploitation and under constant threat of detention and removal.

Paula from Devon approached Settled when she couldn’t secure her mother’s future in the UK. Paula’s elderly mother moved to the UK from France in the 1950s and now has severe dementia and lives in a care home. She had lost the documentation required to apply for Settled Status when she became ill.

“I was crying myself to sleep. I was worried I would have to leave the country with Mum. We were getting nowhere with the EU Settlement Scheme application by ourselves.

 There was no support for people without a voice, such as my mum, nothing is geared towards helping people with debilitating illnesses such as hers.

It was a feeling of utter relief when the team at Settled helped to secure my mum’s Settled Status. I now know my mum can remain in the country, receiving the care she deserves.”

More from Central Bylines

Promises must be kept

Every EU citizen in the UK was promised they would not lose their rights post-Brexit. We are here to ensure that promise is kept.

In direct response to these challenges we are adapting our information and guidance provision to offer a holistic, flexible and responsive service for those experiencing difficulties with:

  •  General immigration issues – including proof of identity, change of status etc.
  • Accessing healthcare
  • Welfare Rights – including removing barriers to digital and financial inclusion
  • Discrimination in employment or elsewhere

We have a dedicated team of more than 120 multi-lingual OISC volunteer advisers who remain rooted in communities across the UK, and are trusted by EU citizens – including those who are marginalised and impoverished, or speak limited English.

They continue to work with determination to help their communities, answering phone calls and online requests for help, as well as providing face to face advice for the most vulnerable.

EU citizens in the UK deserve our help, and our commitment to meeting their needs remains unwavering.

With your assistance we can continue to provide expert information, advice and compassionate support, ensuring nobody faces an uncertain future because of Brexit.

As we enter this vital new phase, please consider giving what you can to help Settled continue to support vulnerable EU citizens and their families.

Donations of all sizes are extremely welcome and we appreciate any amount you care to give.


How to donate to Settled

• You can make an online donation through Paypal

• You can make an online donation through Facebook      


• You can make a BACS payment donation:

Settled • NatWest Bank • Sort code: 600238 • Account no: 75425289

• You can send a cheque, postal order or CAF voucher, payable to ‘Settled’:

Post to Settled, 9 Bath Buildings (Studio 11), Bristol, BS6 5PT

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