The SNP has slammed the Tories for overseeing a surge in EU citizens being wrongly and unfairly refused Universal Credit despite having the legal right to reside in the UK, leaving them homeless and destitute.
They have called for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to immediately investigate why there has been an increase in these cases and for statistics to be published on the number of successful and unsuccessful applications made by EU citizens for Universal Credit since June 2015, and for what reason the unsuccessful applications were rejected.
Today The Guardian reported a surge in cases in which EU nationals without UK citizenship have ended up in debt or sleeping rough because of incorrect decisions to refuse their application for universal credit, cutting off their benefits overnight.
The scandal is being referred to as the ‘hostile environment of the benefits system.
In June the SNP’s Work and Pension spokesperson, Neil Gray MP, and Immigration spokesperson, Stuart McDonald MP, jointly wrote to Amber Rudd to raise concerns about the increase in cases SNP MPs had seen in their constituency offices whereby EU citizens were being denied universal credit after being told they had failed the Habitual Residency Test (HRT).
They also asked for the relevant statistics to be made available to the public. Mr Gray and Mr McDonald have yet to receive a response and the statistics have not been published.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has stated that there had been no change to policy on EU and EEA nationals’ eligibility for Universal Credit since June 2015.
However, two Statutory Instruments came into force in May this year forcing pre-settled EU nationals to demonstrate their right to reside under different and much more complicated rules than settled-status EU nationals in order to access Universal Credit, Child Benefit or Tax Credits.
Commenting, Neil Gray MP said: “What is happening to our EU citizens under the Tories’ watch is nothing short of a disgrace – the UK government must investigate the situation without delay and make available the relevant figures to ensure there is no mal-practice in assessing universal credit claims made by EU nationals.
“My SNP colleagues and I raised our concerns on this issue with Amber Rudd almost 2 months ago and we have yet to receive a response, which quite frankly, is outrageous given the seriousness of the situation.
“It is little wonder that the situation is being referred to as the ‘hostile environment’ of the benefits system – potentially thousands of EU citizens entitled to claim universal credit are being unfairly rejected and the DWP are refusing to tell us why.
“This is on top of the recent rules the Tories sneakily introduced in the last recess period without debate that forces pre-settled EU nationals to demonstrate their right to reside under different and much more complicated rules than settled-status EU nationals in order to access Universal Credit, essentially creating a cohort of second-class EU citizens.
“It is time this Tory government started treating EU citizens with the respect they deserve. If they will not, Scotland must have the full powers of independence so that we can put in place a system that treats our EU citizens with dignity and respect.”
Disclaimer: This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).