Eu Nationals And Access To The British Welfare State


Education, Employment, European Union, Health, Housing, Welfare Benefits

Summary

1 Once an EU National has been granted “habitual residence” the
entire UK benefit system becomes available.  Habitual
residence is, in practice, very easy to obtain even for the unemployed. In
some circumstances it can, in effect, be obtained from day one.

Detail

2 All EU nationals have an initial right to reside in
the UK for three months. Thereafter, EU nationals can extend their
right of residence if they are:

   a jobseeker

   a worker

   a student

   self-employed
person

   self-sufficient
person

3 To gain full access to the welfare state the EU national has to be considered habitually resident[1]. Factors considered may
include the applicant’s intention to be resident in the UK. This can be can be
demonstrated by registering with a GP, putting your name on the electoral roll,
registering your children with the Local Authority for school, having
accommodation available, having your family with you or joining relatives
already here. Cases are decided individually based on the applicant’s
circumstances– there are no firm criteria which indicate habitual
residence.

4 The time an applicant has been resident in the UK is also a
factor. However some EU nationals, such as those who have worked in another EEA
state, can be accepted as habitually resident immediately on arrival; for
others the period of actual residence required is between one and three months[2]

5 EU nationals habitually resident as workers can access all the work
related benefits in the same manner as a British national; these include
working tax credit, child tax credit, contribution-based Job Seekers Allowance
(JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance. They can also claim housing benefit
and council tax benefit and be considered
for social housing[3]. The local authority has
to treat any application for social housing in the same way as it would treat
an application from a British resident.

6 EU nationals unemployed and habitually resident as job-seekers can
claim all the benefits an unemployed British resident can claim. This includes
income-based JSA, child benefit, housing benefit and council tax
benefit. There is no time limit to being a job-seeker and the
benefits can be claimed for as long as someone is considered to be seeking
employment.

7 This access to the welfare state will be fully extended to Romanian
and Bulgarian nationals when transitional arrangements come to an end
on 31 December 2013. Currently the easiest way for nationals of these
countries to access the welfare state is to gain habitual residence as a
self-employed person. Once habitual residence has been granted it is retained –
regardless of whether the person remains self-employed or not.

8  There is no information on the amounts paid to foreign
nationals as the UK’s benefit system does not currently record the
nationality of claimants since nationality itself is not a condition of
entitlement.   The government intend to record nationality when
the Universal Credit system is introduced, beginning in October 2013.

Recommendation

9 It would be greatly preferable if benefits were conditional on an EU
national acquiring “permanent residence”; this requires five years.


[1]
Students and people considered
self-sufficient do not have access to the full range of benefits.

[2]
House of Commons Library Note, SN/SP/416 www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN00416.pdf

7th January 2013

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