EU citizens who have the right to reside in the UK cannot be excluded from claiming benefits subject to means testing, the appeal court ruled.
The decision by three higher judges strengthens the rights of the roughly 1.8 million people in the UK who have “pre-established status” under the EU settlement scheme. It allows them to access benefits under the same conditions as British citizens.
By majority, the court also ruled that the refusal to prevent two Romanian citizens – a severely disabled man and his caretaker – from claiming the universal credit amounted to discrimination on the grounds of nationality.
The test case was brought by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) on behalf of two Romanian nationals, Razvan Tanase and Geanina Fratila, who came to the UK in 2019 and 2014 respectively.
In 2019, they were granted limited permission to stay in the UK under the EU settlement scheme, but were denied universal credit as their pre-settled status was not a sufficient right to grant them access. to benefits subject to verification of resources.
In delivering the ruling, Judge McCombe said: “Perhaps not surprisingly, EU law should, in principle, allow EU citizens to benefit from the particular national laws of individual states if they legally reside in the state. in question, without discrimination on the basis of nationality. Such a right would be totally consistent with the purposes and objects of the union. “
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to appeal the ruling. He was granted a suspension until February 26, 2021, during which time the department does not have to execute the sentence.
An order issued by the court on Friday said that “the legal landscape changes on January 1, 2021” and that it should be left to the Supreme Court to decide whether it wants to hear an appeal.
CPAG estimates that more than 50,000 households have been denied the benefits to which they were entitled since November 2019 as a result of the DWP policy.
Welcoming the ruling, Martin Williams, CPAG Social Welfare Rights Advisor, said: “This confirms that EU citizens with pre-established status in the UK cannot be legally treated less favorably than British citizens with respect to to your right to benefits subject to verification of resources.
“We are pleased that the court of appeal has recognized that the denial of this support to EU citizens whose homes and lives are in the UK is discriminatory and illegal. The ruling will bring justice and protection to thousands of EU citizens who have made Britain their home while the UK was still part of the EU, or during the transition period, and are on the way to settled status. the United Kingdom “.
He added: “The coronavirus pandemic has graphically illustrated how anyone can suddenly discover that they need help from the benefits system to get ahead. We have seen EU citizens and their children left destitute due to this discriminatory rule through no fault of their own.
“Vulnerable groups, such as women and children, who may have had, for example, the support of a British parent or partner until the relationship was broken, have been left without access to a vital safety net. We hope that the UK government will now take steps to ensure that this group continues to receive support after the transition period is over. “
A government spokesman said: “Applying to the EU Settlement Scheme means that EEA citizens and their family members in the UK will be able to access benefits in the same way as they do now. We are disappointed in this trial and are considering our next steps. “
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