Home Office claims settlement scheme caseworkers ‘trained to exercise discretion’ in favour of vulnerable applicants

Written by Sam Trendall on 6 November 2019 in News
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Government says it will try and make allowances for a potential lack of evidence for those with dementia or other conditions

Credit: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

The government has said that the settled status scheme for EU citizens will endeavour to make appropriate allowances for vulnerable applicants.

This will include accepting various forms of evidence of residence in the UK, and instructing staff to give the benefit of the doubt, when necessary.

A written parliamentary question from Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston – who earlier this year defected from the Conservatives and is now a Liberal Democrat – asked the Home Office how it is supporting settled status applicants with dementia or similar conditions “given the possibility that they may have lost the necessary paperwork”.

In response, security minister Brandon Lewis said that the department “has designed a scheme that allows applicants to consent to an appropriate third party to apply on their behalf”. 


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“This means that care givers, family members and friends can provide the necessary assistance to those who need it,” he added.

Lewis said that “the Home Office is aware that a range of vulnerable applicants may face significant challenges in securing evidence to support their application”. This being the case, officials working on the settlement scheme will strive to establish residence based on whatever evidence is available, according to Lewis. Government training programmes also instruct staff to treat vulnerable applicants favourably, he said.

“We will, in such circumstances, accept a range of evidence of identity and residence on behalf of an applicant, working with the person making the application to establish the applicant’s eligibility based on all the evidence available,” Lewis added. “Caseworkers are trained to exercise discretion in the applicant’s favour, where appropriate.”

The minister claimed that these measures form part of “a comprehensive vulnerability strategy” for the settled status scheme. 

Other measures include “engaging with relevant stakeholders, such as the Department for Health and Social Care, the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Devolved Administrations, to assess the needs of vulnerable groups and ensure they are met”, Lewis said.

The security minister also pointed to the government’s establishment of 300 locations around the UK offering assisted digital support for those that need it, as well as £9m in grant funding given to “57 voluntary and community organisations across the UK to enable them to mobilise services targeted at vulnerable EU citizens”.

“The EU settlement scheme is designed to make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens and their family members to apply to stay in the UK after we leave the EU,” he said. “We are looking for reasons to grant status, not reasons to refuse, and the scheme is performing well.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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