Notes from the Home Office User Group meeting on October 29th
Pilot scheme feedback
The first stage of the settlement scheme pilot was reviewed. This trial was restricted to people working for 12 designated NHS trusts and students and staff from 3 universities. 1,150 people took part in the pilot and all were successful, there were no rejections. Of the participants, two thirds were granted settled status and one third pre-settled status. On average, the application process took 15 minutes with a 10-25 minute range. The feedback received indicated that most people found the process simple.
The feedback provided by this group has been used to fine-tune the application process, for example, when HMRC records do not show a full 5 year residence period, the application will make it clear that this is not an issue and applicants will be given the choice of either accepting pre-settled status of providing evidence of 5 year residence in the UK. Applicants who have lived here 5 years or longer should provide this evidence rather than accepting pre-settled status.
Children were not included in this phase of the pilot so no child applications have been made, but the Home Office emphasised that if a parent has settled status, their children can inherit this status regardless of age or length of residence in the UK. When a child application is submitted, there will be a field to provide the settled status reference of their parent, which will lead to them having the same status as their parent(s).
Phase Two of the pilot scheme
The next phase of the trial starts in November. There will be a phased approach, with new groups being able to apply from various dates in November. The full details of who will be able to apply and when are here: EU Settlement Scheme – Phase 2
This phase is only open to applicants with chipped passport using the Android app, since the intention is to test the app. Family members will not be able to apply during this phase, but they will be testing some vulnerable groups as well as looked after children in some local authorities.
The Home Office intend to focus on people with needs rather than specific groups. They anticipate that people who currently do not qualify for PR (such as the street homeless who are not exercising treaty rights) will qualify for settled status, and it is not their intention to make removal decisions against those who are not exercising treaty rights as some organisations fear.
A proposed grant scheme was outlined, this will start out as a one year scheme with nine million pounds available in the first year for eligible organisations. The criteria will be based on the organisations’ ability to give advice, their coverage and their inclusiveness, whether they are able to help all types of individuals as opposed to only certain types. Vulnerable people will be directed to these organisations for assistance in making an application. The bidding process will take place between now and next March.
Notes from settlement scheme workshop on 16th October
A representative of the UKCEN admin team attended this workshop, aimed at community organisations supporting vulnerable people.
The Home Office confirmed that, although the settlement application itself will be available only in English, guidance materials will be produced in all official languages of the EU and also in Welsh. They also stated their intention to provide the following:
- Assisted digital support for people without IT skills or internet access, for example in libraries and possibly other locations.
- Chip reading facilities for people without Android devices so they don’t need to send in original documents.
- Mobile teams traveling to designated drop in centres, remote rural areas, etc.
- A customer resolution centre.
An advertising campaign will be run starting next year, to raise awareness of the need to apply, this will include social media, radio, billboards, etc.
The subject of people without valid passports was raised, and the Home Office stated their intention to accept alternative evidence, such as expired passports, where relevant. There was also potential for a fee remission scheme for people who would, otherwise, be unable to apply due to financial constraints, such as the street homeless.
Results from Phase One of the pilot
The Home Office has published the results of this initial stage of the trial and the actions taken as a result. The document is available here: EU Settlement Scheme – Private Beta Testing Phase 1 Report