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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  COVID-19: Welfare benefit rules and entitlements  →  Thread

EU Nationals and temporary eligibility for welfare benefits??

Peter@Crisis
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Best Practice Team - Crisis

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Hi everyone,

My first post here!

I work for a homelessness charity and we have heard anecdotally from another organisation that the DWP have put a temporary COVID 19 easement in place, allowing EU nationals who have applied for Settled Status to apply for means-tested benefits without waiting for the decision. Under this easement, we are told that the applicant would be given full access to the benefits system including housing support immediately with a review of their situation in 6 months’ time. If during these 6 months, the applicant’s application for Settled Status is rejected, they would lose their automatic entitlements.

We asked the DWP about this but don’t have a clear response. We’re also aware of the letter from Luke Hall MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, advising that the Government has suspended an EU derogation (normally applied through Article 24(2) of the EU Free Movement Directive) to enable local authorities to accommodate and support a specific group of rough sleeping EEA nationals for up to 12 weeks. The letter makes it clear that local authorities can offer up to three months of emergency accommodation, alongside floating support to rough sleepers, but it does not extend to statutory services or welfare benefits.

If anyone else has come across this or has a definitive answer, it would be much appreciated if you could share!

Peter

Mr Jim
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Asylum & Roma Team, Social Work Services, Glasgow City Council

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Peter, I hope whoever told you this is correct but I haven’t heard anything about it. A google search came up with nothing.

Jim

Elliot Kent
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I haven’t heard anything like this and have clients who could be assisted if this is true.

It wouldn’t be the first unadvertised, extra-statutory and poorly defined “easement” to come out of this situation.

[ Edited: 3 Jul 2020 at 11:59 am by Elliot Kent ]
Martin Williams
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Welfare rights advisor - CPAG, London

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Here is the letter   from the Minister.

Relevant part:

EEA Rough Sleepers   We also understand that some of the individuals currently accommodated across the England under this initial emergency approach are EEA nationals who are not in employment, some of whom may have limited move on options. I know from my contact with various local authorities that this is a significant concern.

It is for this reason the Government is now taking unprecedented action in temporarily, nationally suspending an EU derogation (normally applied through Article 24(2) of the EU Free Movement Directive) to enable you to accommodate and support a specific group of rough sleeping EEA nationals for up to 12 weeks.

In September 2019 the suspension was applied in areas with acute and concentrated numbers of EEA nationals who were sleeping rough – Greater London, Luton Bedford and Milton Keynes. This has allowed us to break the cycle of homelessness for many of these individuals, helping them become economically active and to prevent the tragic loss of life, which is our biggest concern for those on the streets.

In the Autumn 2019 snapshot, there was a 21% reduction in EU national rough sleepers in London from 610 in 2018 to 481, and work continues to support more individuals to enter work and secure accommodation.

Following the success of this approach and in recognition of the ongoing challenges faced by local authorities, the Government will now be extending these powers nationally as of 24 June 2020. These powers will allow local authorities to support certain EEA nationals who are not eligible for other types of support until the end of the transition period (31 December 2020), at which point new rules will apply under the new immigration system. In practice this will mean that local authorities in the circumstances outlined in Annex B will be able to offer up to three months of emergency accommodation, alongside floating support to rough sleepers.

This approach does not extend to statutory services or welfare benefits. It means that job seeking, EEA national rough sleepers who meet the criteria, will be eligible for your nonstatutory homelessness services, such as hostels, on the same basis as those who are currently eligible for these services e.g. UK national rough sleepers and EEA national workers.. It does not provide them with priority over UK national rough sleepers and accommodation and support is limited to a maximum of 3 months.

Martin Williams
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Welfare rights advisor - CPAG, London

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Sorry - the Annex to letter is also relevant and has more detail:

Annex A – Q&A
Q. What is the ‘Suspension of the Derogation’? 
• The UK currently applies an exemption (derogation) from Article 24(2) of the Free
Movement Directive to the need for equal treatment between UK and EEA citizens who
are exercising free movement rights during their initial three months in the UK and when
they are here as ‘jobseekers’ (as defined by the Immigration (European Economic Area)
Regulations 2016).
• The government has chosen to temporarily suspend the derogation for up to 7 months.
• This will allow a specific group of EEA nationals who are rough sleeping to access certain
non-statutory homelessness services. This will extend to a one time, maximum of three
months, emergency accommodation and floating support.
• During this time individuals will be supported into employment or supported to return
home and connected with services there, should this be the most suitable option.
• By providing accommodation it will support eligible job seeking EEA nationals to find
employment and regularise their stay in the UK.
• This approach does not extend to statutory services or welfare benefits. In practice it
means that job seeking, EEA national rough sleepers who meet the criteria will be eligible
to access basic non-statutory homelessness services.
• This is a short-term measure which will allow government to take immediate action to
support these individuals.
Q. Why have you chosen to do this?
• The suspension of the derogation was introduced in Greater London, Luton, Bedford and
Milton Keynes in September 2019 and in the Autumn 2019 snapshot count, there was an
overall decrease in EU nationals sleeping rough. In addition, for the first time in six years,
there was a decrease in the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough in London
and the largest decrease since 2010.
• We want to support EEA nationals to find employment and regularise their status in the
UK or return to their country of origin and connect with services there, should that be the
best option available.
Q. How long will this approach be applied? 
• The approach will be limited to a maximum of seven months – from 24 June 2020 until 31
December 2020.

Peter@Crisis
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Best Practice Team - Crisis

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Thanks for the replies, everyone. Still no joy with this one, but if we do come across a definitive answer one way or another I’ll be sure to share.