In a landmark case, the UK Court of Appeal ruled last week that EU citizens with pre-settled status can access welfare benefits on an equal basis with other claimants.
The Court ruled that they had been unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of their nationality, breaching EU law. The Court of Appeal is the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales, and deals only with appeals from other courts or tribunals.
The test case was brought by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) on behalf of two Romanian nationals, Ms Fratila and Mr Tanase, who came to the UK in 2014 and 2019 respectively.
In 2019, Tanase, who is severely disabled and Fratila, his carer, were granted pre-settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme but refused access to universal credit, a means-tested benefit to which they were entitled.
Responding to the news, CPAG’s Welfare Rights Adviser Martin Williams said that, “The judgment will bring justice and protection to thousands of EU citizens who have made Britain their home whilst the UK was still part of the EU, or during the transition period, and are on the path to settled status in the UK”.
There are over 1.8m EU citizens in the UK with pre-settled status (40% of the total). Free movement comes to an end in the UK on 31 December, and EU citizens resident in the UK have a six-month grace period to secure their status.
The UK government may still try to overturn the judgement by going to the Supreme Court and there will be no change in rules until 21 February.
“Until this case was heard, EU citizens with pre-settled status would have had no idea what would happen to them if they lost their job or fell into destitution,” commented Roger Casale, a former British MP and Executive director of citizens rights NGO New Europeans.
“The Home Office says it wants to reassure all EU citizens in the UK, but the Department of Work and Pensions clearly thinks it can still deny some EU citizens access to services and benefits,” he added.
“We know from our own research that it is often the most vulnerable who are least able to cope with the new digital status and the least likely to appeal or go to court when the system fails them. Government needs to do better.”
The Brussels Times