UNISON Cymru/Wales is engaging with a new initiative that will train its reps to assist EU nationals tackle the crucial and daunting task of applying for settled status.
Brexit Day is past and acquiring settled status an absolute necessity for millions of people, including 80,000 UNISON members and their families.
The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021. Those affected who have not applied by that date will lose their legal right to be in the UK and will be subject to UK immigration rules.
UNISON nationally has already issued guidance for individual EU members and branches on the government’s EU settlement scheme. But there is still much to be done in helping health care assistants, school support staff, carers and many others over the finish line.
To that end, Cymru/Wales has joined with the charity Settled, to pilot training for the region’s reps.
Two courses have already been conducted – the first of their kind anywhere in the UK – in UNISON offices in Abergele and Cardiff. Among the topics covered by the Settled trainers were:
- Explaining settled status in detail: who it applies to, how to register, the evidence of UK residence required, the timeline and citizens’ rights;
- The legal boundaries of the advice reps are permitted to give;
- Outreach engagement: identifying people in need who may not understand that settled status applies to them.
Those involved in the first sessions included a regional organiser, a Welsh NEC member and branch secretaries from health and local government.
It is now hoped that similar events will be rolled out across Wales, enabling reps in a variety of workplaces to become ‘settled status angels’ who could assist people and signpost complex cases to organisations with the relevant experience.
One member who has just secured settled status is German-born Manuela Hughes, who has lived in the UK since 1992 and is a special unit leader in an autism centre in a Pembrokeshire secondary school.
She said: “The whole process of applying to remain in the UK is confusing, frustrating and traumatic. And could put people off pursuing what is their right.
“That’s why it’s so good an organisation the size of UNISON has made a commitment to offer support to Welsh public service workers caught up in this.”
UNISON regional secretary Tanya Palmer said: “You only need to visit your doctor’s surgery, a local hospital or school to see EU nationals are working hard in public service and caring for our communities. They have enriched our culture. And it is time to help them.
“We are leaving the EU and it is important these public servants are treated with dignity and assisted if they wish to remain in Wales. UNISON wants to provide assistance where we can, and we will continue to raise awareness of their plight with employers and Welsh government.”
Settled is a charitable arm of the3million, the campaign group for EU citizens in the UK. The Welsh Government has provided funding for a Settled coordinator operating across Wales, who will provide free accredited training and resources to both individuals and groups.