Tanya Palmer, UNISON Cymru Wales regional secretary
European nationals working in Wales as carers, healthcare assistants and school support staff amongst others are to be offered assistance by Wales’ biggest trade union in processing their applications to remain in the UK after Brexit.
UNISON Cymru Wales has linked-up with charity Settled, to pilot training on how trade union representatives might best support and guide EU citizens who may be struggling with their application to the UK Government’s Settlement Scheme.
This week, training courses – the first of their kind anywhere in the UK – are being held in UNISON offices in Abergele and Cardiff and it is hoped similar events will be rolled-out across Wales.
The trade union has repeatedly underlined the contribution of foreign nationals working in Welsh public services and says they face an increasingly hostile environment during the Brexit transition.
The idea is for UNISON representatives in workplaces across Wales to become ‘Settled Status Angels’ who could assist people and signpost complex cases to organisations with the relevant experience.
German-born Manuela Hughes has lived in the UK since 1992. She is employed as a special unit leader in an autism centre in a Pembrokeshire secondary school and has just secured Settled Status. Manuela 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.
“Home Office decisions on right to remain seem arbitrary and there are horrible cases of families being split-up when children and dependant relatives have been denied Settled Status.
“My Settled Status has just been confirmed but there’s no certificate or paperwork that’s legally binding. I worry if a future government chooses to move the goal-posts, the UK will be looking at another Windrush scandal where people who have worked and built lives here are pressurised to leave.”
Tanya Palmer, UNISON regional secretary 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 now 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.”
Notes for editors
Settled is a charitable arm of campaign group the3million which aims to give a voice to the three million EU citizens in the UK
There are many reasons why people may find it difficult to engage with the Settled Status application process or are worried to do so. This can include difficulty with providing or accessing documents, not having the means or the skill to make an online application and difficulty in understanding the language of the application process, or living in circumstances where making an application could impact on other issues of concern, such as being homeless or a victim of domestic abuse.
The Welsh Government has provided funding to Settled to appoint a “Settled Status Angel Coordinator” operating across Wales. The coordinator will provide free accredited training and resources to both individuals and groups.
Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer on 07816 53 83 97
Photo: Natasha Hirst