Over 50,000 people in Lambeth have already applied for Settled or Pre Settled Status, according to Home Office figures, but time is running out for our fellow Lambeth residents to beat the Brexit clock. The Lambeth Liberal Democrats are absolutely committed to doing what we can to help make sure people are both not left out in converting their status and that their rights and contribution are recognised and protected. We are concerned that despite good will, neither central nor local government is doing enough given the Pandemic and the possibility of the so called "Australian style" No Deal. We will not let that happen and are committed to campaigning as hard as we can to stop a disaster. Please check out our Campaigns Page!
Settled Status and Pre Settled Status refer to the new legal status created for EU nationals resident within UK and Northern Ireland. Applicants have till June 30 2021 to apply, but they must be in country by end of 2020 to do so. We believe that these statuses are not what was promised by the Leave Campaigns or indeed the UK government and this leaves our many EU residents in a weak position. Our specific concerns are: Hostile Environment, People missing out and EU family members of UK nationals who wish to return home.
Settled Status must be applied for - it isn't a basic grant. This means that if people do not apply for it, they will not get it. Even before the Pandemic, there was a real and material risk that many would miss out, due to a variety of factors, like being vulnerable adults or children, poor language skills, access to legal advice or basic information, lack of technological prowess (applicants must use a smartphone) or just bad luck with timing (like being overseas for a sudden emergency when a deadline passes). The Pandemic has made everything harder and Settled Status is no exception. Whilst it is easy to apply for compared to other immigration statuses, it still requires preparation and work. When people are distracted due to their safety, jobs, or mental health, they will not always be able to find out things they need to know.
Many people are now not even sucesfully obtaining Settled Status, which is worrying, as that means their status is going to be uncertain for some time. At the start of the Pandemic, 55% of applicants received Settled Status versus 45% Pre Settled Status. In November 2020 it is now 57% receiving Pre Settled Status and 43% Settled Status.
What can we do now?
We need to ensure that all EU nationals know about their new obligation and that they get Settled or Pre Settled Status. This means lots of work to meet people and communities to ensure they are aware. It is a numbers game. We Lib Dems are well known for flooding people with leaflets but this is exactly what needs to happen now. Both the UK government and Lambeth Council need to make repeated efforts to reach people, by regular mail outs and focused contact with at risk groups.
We also need to ensure that there is advice available. There are volunteer groups like Settled helping EU residents work through the process and of course the CAB and volunteer legal advice services, but given the scale we need specialist Settled Status advisors who are multi-lingual.