Right to Reside: DWP errors threaten EU workers

Our volunteer caseworker Mike Haran explains how DWP errors can push EU workers into rent arrears and homelessness, and why effective support is so important

Mike Haran, Volunteer Caseworker

While the social security system offers a vital safety net for us all, navigating it correctly can be a challenging task. Rules around entitlement, how to claim and individual requirements are complex, and liable to change after a small shift in circumstances. This is particularly difficult for non-UK nationals, to whom different regulations apply.

With many of our essential services, agriculture and healthcare in the UK dependent on staff from overseas, ensuring foreign workers have the right support is vital for the smooth-running of the economy. But errors in the system can cause people’s social security payments to be stopped incorrectly, severely hampering their ability to pay rent, buy essentials and do their work.

This recently happened to our client Hugo. He is an EU citizen and has been living and working in the UK since 1996. Last year however, after a spell of unemployment and jobseeking, Hugo’s Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) was stopped by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). He was deemed not to have a Genuine Prospect of Work, a test to assess whether an EU national’s six months of JSA should be extended or not.

With the refusal of his claim for JSA, Hugo’s housing benefit was also stopped. No longer able to afford rent he quickly fell into arrears and received a possession summons. Suddenly a brief period of unemployment, after 22 years living and working in the country, had pushed Hugo to the brink of homelessness.

However, DWP had overlooked the crucial fact that as Hugo had lived here since 1996 and had worked continuously for over five years, he had a Permanent Right to Reside. This meant he should not be liable to any restrictions on his entitlement to benefits, and did not have to prove he had a Genuine Prospect of Work in order to claim his rightful payments.

With our support, Hugo was able to make the case and submit the required evidence. The DWP checked his National Insurance records and agreed that he did have a Permanent Right of Residence. We then made sure that Hugo’s Housing Benefit arrears were paid and the possession summons withdrawn, removing the threat of homelessness that had been hanging over him for months.

Unfortunately, it took six months before the arrears of JSA were paid, and it was only when we complained to Hugo’s MP that the matter was resolved. Administrative errors and the DWP’s overlooking of crucial details meant that Hugo’s debts and rent arrears very quickly shot to problematic levels. It was only with our support and expertise that Hugo was able to challenge the decision and claim the payments he is rightfully entitled to, and even then it took months to resolve. For those without access to the same support, such errors can be devastating.

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