Rights of the EU citizens in the UK
One of the key areas of our work is raising awareness about rights of Eastern European migrants in the UK (England and Wales). Lack of awareness and knowledge is one of the key barriers in migrants’ progress to full integration and prosperity in their new country. It is also one of the key inhabitants of personal development and growth.
Complexities of the British system require prompt and accurate information for migrants so that they are equipped to make choices on their work and personal lives and integrate smoothly with the host community. This information and advice should be delivered to high standards and in recognition of language and cultural barriers that migrants may face.
According to our recent research ‘Eastern Europeans in London’ (Dec 2015, >>> East-Europeans-in-London-December-2013), Eastern Europeans face the following barriers to information and advice:
- English language skills
- Poor attitude towards advice agencies, resulting from genuine lack of awareness, no similar experiences in homelands and very low confidence to articulate the problem
- Apprehension about statutory agencies, resulting from belief that agencies, especially statutory, are hostile and omnipotent
- Transplanting norms of behaviour from homelands, mainly over-reliance on word of mouth as well as general lack of trust to ‘institutions’
These barriers and issues are aggravated by changes in the welfare and housing systems. Changes that have negative effect on Eastern European migrants have been in place since January 2014. The key changes that have particular relate to all benefits and tax credits as well as access to housing benefits and social housing that are assessed against the right to reside and habitual residence test.
Progressing liberalisation of the labour market require information, advice and guidance how to navigate it. It is particularly important for Eastern Europeans, who draw almost all their income from work. While flexible labour market welcomes job creation, it also creates opportunities for abuse of workers’ rights and rights of self-employed. Our records show that a half of our users affected by work problems were not paid their wages or contracted money at all or were seriously underpaid.
Low incomes and unpaid wages contribute to financial difficulties that coupled with restricted access to welfare aid may lead to homelessness. Since April 2014 our workload shows sharp increase of evictions, some of which can be stopped providing that timely and accurate information and advice is provided.
Not understanding the system, not being paid properly or at all and struggling with finding trusted and accurate information result in mental health issues that have a potential to further aggravate a bad situation. This project goes out to Eastern European migrants with information and advice so that as many of them as possible know their rights and responsibilities and are better able to plan for various future scenarios.
We deliver information sessions and surgeries in various places in London. If you think that your local Eastern European communities or your Eastern European users could benefit from information sessions and workshops, contact Kasia to have a chat.