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29 June 2020  

Lena* began staying in Glass Door night shelters after she was evicted from her flat in December 2019. She had lost her job and could no longer pay rent on her own.  

Lena had moved from Poland to London in 2003 for work, and after 16 years in England, London was home. Yet despite paying her taxes through all the years she was employed, she now found herself ineligible for benefits.  

Glass Door caseworker Agnieszka met with Lena to discuss her options. After hearing her story, Agnieszka suspected she had been wrongly rejected for universal credit and was a victim of domestic violence.  

Agnieszka advised Lena to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme so she could get the status and housing support she was entitled to. The process hit a road bump when Lena did not have details of how to access an application she had already started. The Glass Door team was able to intervene and get the application fast-tracked based on Lena’s vulnerable circumstances.  

Thanks to the intervention, Lena received notification that she had been granted “settled status” three days later.  

She is one of over 160 individuals Glass Door has been able to assist with applications to the EU Settlement Scheme in the past year. For EU citizens experiencing homelessness in the UK like Lena, the scheme can be “a real life-changer”.  

Agnieszka says:

New possibilities like housing, benefits and specialist health services can then open up that were never there before.

Successful applicants receive either settled or pre-settled status, depending on whether they have been residing in the UK for five years or longer.  

“Everyone we have supported usually goes on to have their applications approved,” says Agnieszka.  

EU, EEA or Swiss citizen can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. A successful application also opens up the possibility of applying for citizenship 12 months after receiving settled status.  

Only advisors accredited by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner like Agnieszka can officially provide advice and services on the EU Settlement Scheme. Four caseworkers at Glass Door have been granted accreditation.  

Complicated stories

For most people applying to the scheme, the process can be straightforward. But for others, it can take months to help someone gather the evidence they need.  

Agnieszka says:  

The process can be particularly challenging for people with inconsistent housing and employment. They rely on services like Glass Door to provide supporting evidence.

Glass Door migrant project manager Anna points out that the charity regularly supports survivors of domestic violence, modern slavery, trafficking and/or sexual exploitation. Many have become wary of engaging after years of coming up against a government that promotes a hostile environment towards immigrants.  

Anna adds:

Caseworkers at Glass Door spend time building trusting relationships with guests to facilitate the best possible outcomes for them. This takes time.

The challenges of lockdown

The scheme’s official website states that it is taking longer than usual to process applications because of coronavirus. Now, everything needs to be done using a computer or smart phone.

“I now guide guests through applications over the phone,” says Agnieszka. “But things like scanning ID can be tricky to assist with remotely, so we are also working with guests in person at our partner drop-ins when we have to.”  

Agnieszka is in the process of assessing over 20 guests for whom she hopes to make an application soon. Many of these individuals are currently being housed in hotels as part of the Government’s “everyone-in” programme, which helped provide emergency shelter for about 5,400 people experiencing homelessness, with many housed in hotels. A successful application could mean they will be eligible for housing support. But it will take time, and time is running out.  

Much work to be done  

On 14 May, the Home Office announced that more than 3.5 million people have applied for the EU Settlement Scheme.

Anna responded:

But we know from our work that there are a lot of vulnerable people who are eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme who are still out there. There is still much work to be done.  

*Lena’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.  

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