Many thousands of EU nationals based in Merton have applied to remain in the UK under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS), but Merton Council reports that there are still many more who are yet to start the process.
Government figures show that as of 31 December 24,200 Merton residents had submitted an EUSS application and, of these, 21,660 have been concluded. However, after consulting local community groups, the council believes that there are still many people who are eligible for the EUSS who are yet to apply in particular vulnerable citizens such as older people and non-EEA nationals.
The council is urging all residents from EU countries and eligible non-EEA nationals who want to stay in the UK to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible. The government have said that all EU nationals must apply for Settled Status to keep their right to remain in the country and secure their rights to vote, get free medical care and welfare benefits.
EU nationals carry out many important jobs that benefit the borough’s economy and have close personal relationships with British citizens living in the borough. The council is therefore concerned about the impact on the local community if many of them do not receive full settled status.
In an effort to increase the number making successful applications, the council has commissioned specialist services to give residents free support and advice on the scheme. Residents can access free help to make EUSS applications from Citizens Advice Merton and Lambeth, South West London Law Centres or the Association for Polish Family.
The council is also appealing for local employers, the voluntary sector, schools and colleges to encourage any EU or eligible non-EEA nationals in their networks to apply. Whilst there are high profile campaigns both locally and nationally to raise awareness of the EUSS, many will only hear about it through word of mouth.
The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021, but the council is flagging up that this could be brought forward depending on the outcome of negotiations with the EU. If the UK does not strike a deal with EU before the end of the transition period the government have said that no new applications will be accepted after 31 December 2020.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Mark Allison, said: “Many of our friends and neighbours may have been born outside Merton, but they’ve put down roots and helped to make this a great place for families. We want them to continue to contribute, and as a business-like council we are doing all we can to encourage our residents and employees who are EU nationals to fill out the paperwork so that they can enjoy living here with their families.
“It’s fantastic news that so many of our European friends, neighbours and family members are choosing to stay in our community after Brexit, but we are gravely concerned that, unless more of them apply for the EUSS, our communities will be broken up.
“We don’t want our neighbours and loved ones to lose the right to remain here, their right to vote or their rights to free medical care and welfare benefits and are offering free specialist advice services to support those who need help with their application.
“They have helped make our borough a great place for everyone to live in, and it is only right that we are here to help them when they need it too.”
- Full details on the numbers of EUSS applications can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/eu-settlement-scheme-quarterly-statistics-december-2019
- For access help and advice, residents can contact Citizens Advice Merton by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org calling 020 8687 9297
- There is no fee for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme
The figure of 24,200 applicants represents a 63% increase over a three month period from September–December 2019.