Cllr Jack Hopkins is the Leader of Lambeth Council and a councillor in Oval ward.
Since the beginning of the year, the Home Office IT system broke down for over an hour on multiple occasions. If any EU resident needed their document to prove their status to a potential employer or a landlord, this would have not been possible. Over 3.5 million EU citizens must apply for the settled or pre-settled status by December 2020 to ensure that they can continue living and working in the United Kingdom. In order to prove their status, they will have to obtain a one-off code which the organisation will have to input into a government website, a fairly complex system that is at risk of being temporarily offline or be hacked. This system goes against the principle that applicants will supply all the information required, a system that most landlords, health providers or employers have in place. A physical document as proof of settled status would ensure accessibility at any time and would not be impacted by any future IT glitches.
There are clear parallels with the lack of documents and the hostile environment which have led to the Windrush scandal. Landlords and employers will become unofficial border officers, risking fines of around £5000 per adult and imprisonment sentences for renting to or employing someone who did not have the right to be in the UK. They are at risk of being discriminated as British and non-EU citizens can prove their status with an official document, whether that is a passport or permanent residence document. Numerous instances of cases being altered or inaccessible have already been recorded.
We know that our greatest asset is our diversity, and we value all our communities, including all our residents from the European Union. In Lambeth, there are over 40,000 EU citizens, who are an integral part of Lambeth’s communities and make an invaluable contribution to our businesses, the delivery of our public services, and to wider public life. We want to send a clear message to all Lambeth residents who are originally from EU countries – we want you to stay. To ensure this process is as smooth as possible, we have waived the fee for such checks for Lambeth residents so that everyone is able to use it as swiftly and easily as possible. Now it is time for the Government to make positive amends to this process as December 2020 is only 9 months away.
Cllr Jack Hopkins