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I'm concerned about the very youngest and oldest European citizens in Fife losing their rights to healthcare, education and welfare support as they are not aware the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme applies to them.

Set up following the Brexit referendum, the scheme requires EU, EEA and EFTA citizens currently living in the UK to apply for settled or pre-settled status by 30 June 2021. Those who do not apply could lose the right to work in the UK, use the NHS for free, enrol in education and access benefits, but I have learned that many people mistakenly think the scheme is only for EU citizens in work.

A 2020 report from The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford found that a significant number of EU citizens may not be aware that the scheme exists and that they need to apply. The report identifies several groups who are particularly vulnerable, including very long-term residents, such as the estimated 139,000 EU citizens who arrived at least 30 years ago, the 145,000 people with permanent residence who are not yet UK citizens, and the estimated 689,000 children of EU citizens whose parents do not themselves apply, do not realise that children need to apply, or mistakenly believe that their UK-born children are automatically UK citizens.

The SNP has been calling for the UK Government extend the rights of EU nationals in the UK automatically, or at the very least to cancel the June deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme. It is ridiculous that millions of EU citizens are expected to know about this scheme, which risks seeing people - including children and vulnerable people - falling through the gaps.

Having spoken to local organisations working with the migrant community in Fife, I’m worried that too many Fifers are not aware of the need to apply for settled status in order to keep living here, attending school or accessing health and social care.

Even if you have been here for a long time, or if you were born here, all EU citizens and their families must apply by the end of June to ensure you do not lose your rights, now or in the future.

Nina Munday, Chief Executive of the Fife Centre for Equalities, commented:

“We welcome the message to encourage communities and service providers to ensure that the most vulnerable individuals are being supported to apply for their EU Settlement Status. It is important to remember that everyone in the household must apply. Without settled status, they might be at risk of losing access to free education, healthcare or benefits. If anyone in your family or community needs help with the Settlement Scheme application, please get in touch with Fife Centre for Equalities.”

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