Extra funding to help vulnerable people apply for EU Settlement Scheme
The Home Office is providing an extra £8 million of funding to help vulnerable people apply to the EU Settlement Scheme after it came under fire over the support available.
Charities and local authorities can bid for the cash to offer advice and support in person, online and over the phone in 2020-21 to EU citizens already living in the UK.
The announcement comes a week after campaigners accused the Government department of being “less than co-operative” in helping vulnerable people apply to the scheme.
The criticism followed concerns from the watchdog reviewing the Home Office’s handling of the project, which described some of its responses to concerns as “less positive and constructive” than hoped.
Some 57 charities across the country were given a share of £9 million last year to offer support. Their funding will be extended to June while the bidding process takes place.
Organisations successful in securing the next round of funding will be “fully supported by the Home Office and will be able to speak to caseworkers directly to discuss individual cases”, a department spokesman said.
David Bolt, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, praised some of the Home Office’s work to grant EU citizens permission to stay in the UK after Brexit and help vulnerable applicants, but also raised concerns and made a string of recommendations for improvements.
He said: “Most of the recommendations were aimed at improving the way the scheme operates for vulnerable and hard-to-reach individuals, and applicants who are finding the process difficult.
“Given the Home Office’s considerable efforts to date to make the (scheme) a success, I imagined that I would be pushing at an open door.
“Some of the responses are less positive and constructive than I had hoped.”
Maike Bohn, co-founder of campaign group the3million, claimed some people were “struggling to apply” or still do not know about the scheme and could miss out.
Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said: “This new funding means no stone will be left unturned in ensuring everyone gets the help they need.”
The department is spending around £4 million on advertising the scheme after a radio advert was banned for failing to make clear that more documents than just a passport or ID card would be needed to apply.
Support is available in person and online as well as from a helpline staffed by 250 people, which is open seven days a week to answer questions on applications.
Home visits for those who cannot use a computer or do not have internet access can be arranged, the department said.