Our recent Brexit Briefing was designed to discuss preparations that housing providers and related services were making in relation to Brexit.
Our key speaker was Bethan Bateman, Head of Migration for the Welsh Government’s European Transition Team. You can see her presentation here (members only).
These notes are a combination of comments from delegates and Tai Pawb staff as well as information from our speaker.
All information should be considered accurate as of the publishing date, and is liable to change.
Community Cohesion Discussion
- Impression that some people in small, post-industrial communities became less inclusive. This can sometimes be driven by fear of immigration equated to the loss of identity.
- Some people in communities which have very low migration voted leave because of ‘high immigration’ and the fear factor
- Communities are becoming more insular and feel they are losing their identity
- There needs to be more education and conversations in such communities not only around immigration but what their values are etc.
- It is believed that far right groups are very active in the valleys, targeting communities and radicalising young people
- There are issues around lack of opportunity to correlate police data to housing stock, in relation to ASB as well as hate crime, in order to have a targeted partnership approach to tackling issues as they occur (some incidents are reported to the police but not the housing provider and vice versa). One member working with their police force to address this so that they could get crime data related to their stock in real time (subject to GDPR). Incumbent upon Police and Crime Commissioner to push this forward.
- One provider thought that majority of hate incidents were not reported by their tenants and this percentage has gone up after the referendum as people are normalising hate and prejudice.
- Difficult to know what to do as they expected an ‘epidemic’ which didn’t happen, but how much discrimination is being normalised in private?
- Wales has a lower average of EU nationals in comparison to the rest of the UK.
- Roughly 4% of social tenants are EU nationals, though will have major regional variations
- There are roughly 58k EU National adults in Wales and roughly 13k EU National children (EU citizens have more children than this number, but some only have British citizenship)
- EU citizens constitute 2 to 2.5% of Welsh workforce but are disproportionately represented in 5 key sectors:
- Health and social care
- Higher education
- 6% of social care/health workforce is EU (18% of registered nurses)
- Construction – data shows that in Wales construction is not heavily dependent on a migrant workforce. However, this is an average assessment and there might be pockets of large dependency. There is high dependency on EU workforce in construction in London and South East, this may mean future skills shortages and skills drain with Welsh workers leaving for England.
- There are toolkits on Welsh Government and UK Gov websites for Employers
Settled status – key issues
- Detailed information on settled status available here.
- People who cannot prove their settled status can get pre-settled status.
- Settled status – when applying for benefits there will be no habitual residency test
- Pre-settled status – when applying for benefits there will be a habitual residency test
- Housing providers and homelessness services should have information available for EU citizens using their services, especially in relation to where to obtain immigration advice. They need to remember that they need to be registered with OISC if they want to provide immigration advice (there is a simplified process for this for advice for settled status EU citizens)
- Home Office and Welsh Government has provided funding to a number of organisations to provide additional advice to EU citizens
- Welsh Government is in the process of procuring additional immigration advice services registered with Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) which will be available to be signposted to.
- Settled Status could be withdrawn if EU National leaves the UK for 5 years or commits a serious crime.
- Difficult to say which groups may be more vulnerable
- Issues for those who have been in the UK but cannot prove this as they may have been trafficked, fled DV, homeless.
- Older EU citizens who have been settled in the UK for a long time but have no documentation may be vulnerable (as may assume that they have a right to stay here without registering)
- EU citizens in British prisons are not treated as residents (therefore the period in prison does not count towards their status). They will be particularly vulnerable if they have been in prison in the last 5 years or are currently in prison and won’t be released until after the Settled Status period.
Briefing: how criminal convictions affect settled status for EU citizens
- Domestic violence survivors (may find it difficult to prove residency)
- People with English language difficulties and lower level of IT literacy
- People with no access to Android phone
- There is a risk that, due to uncertainty around immigration rules, EU citizens will be asked to prove their status even where they don’t need to, which can create a non-welcoming environment for them
- WG predict around 10% may have difficulty applying.
In the event of no deal Brexit – transitional period
- After March 2019 EU citizens can come to visit and stay for up to 3 months without visa (although they will need to register online). They will need visa after that.
- Housing Benefit and housing/homelessness eligibility – there is no clarity on whether EU citizens coming to the UK in the transitional period in a no deal scenario, will have access to benefits and public services, including housing.
- There are concerns around the digitalisation of immigration checks – i.e. it can lead to situations where the Home Office website would provide information about eligibility for Welsh services which are devolved. This is a particular concern where the Welsh government might want to take a different route from England, for example with regards to housing or health support eligibility.
- Temporary workers scheme will be available after 2021, including low skilled workers, more information here.
- UK citizens returning to the UK could cause strain on services, as well as a lack of understanding of their rights and entitlements.
- Due to uncertainty around supply chains and workers, larger non-local firms may have to be contracted to meet demand as they are seen as more resilient to change, impacting local businesses.
- Discrimination – potential risk when promoting this as it could lead to people being identified as EU and potential targets for xenophobia. Digital immigration service will allow landlords (e.g.) to search for status of potential tenant online. This could be particularly useful as it has been in England (free school meals etc.,) but there are potential risks of increased amounts of discrimination faced by EU nationals.
- Exploitation – those who become unlawful residents may go ‘underground’ and be exploited in terms of employment, housing, support etc.
- Plugging the gap – some recruitment has specifically targeted EU/immigrants to fill gaps in service provision. How will this gap be filled?
- Comms – how will Home Office promote this? Will it be wide enough and capture diverse groups?
- Third sector (and other sectors) need to know where to signpost individuals for support.
- Issue around homelessness and settled/pre-settled status.
Example of impacts on members and what they are doing:
- There is a large proportion of EU workers working in the care sector. Members with large care arms may want to prepare for this by checking their workforce profile and providing information and support as well as preparing for a drop in EU workers in the future
- Some members have surveyed their contractors to check how they have prepared for Brexit
- Some members are adjusting their business models in areas with potential high impact: e.g. supply chains and components prices are going up (gas components and offsite manufacturing cited)
- There is a predicted increase in poverty due to job losses and food price increases. Organisations need to be prepared for this; foodbanks may struggle with demand
- Frontline staff are being trained in EU settled status to be able to signpost EU tenants in the right direction
- Make an android phone available to your EU tenants in order for them to register for settled status – APP. Some people will have no access to Android phone and this would really help them. No data is stored on the phone so this is GDPR compliant.
- Survey your contractors to check how they have prepared for Brexit – including level of dependence on EU workforce and supply chains
- Reassure your services users via increased coms and in face to face meetings. Tenants and residents that they are welcome and that you will do everything that is possible to support them