Date of publication: 23rd September 2021
Summary of Complaint
In May 2021 the IMA received information about the way in which Newham Council (“the Council”) had written to EU, EEA and EFTA citizens within its Borough who were registered on its housing waiting list. The letter asked for evidence of Pre-Settled/Settled Status by a specified date and planned to remove citizens who did not produce this evidence/information from the list. The letter failed to account for the possibility that some of the citizens may have had pending applications to the EUSS and should therefore have had their rights protected until their application had been determined by appeal or administrative review in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement and the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and in line with guidance issued by the UK Government.
The IMA was concerned about the consequences of potential systemic issues with the management of the housing waiting list specifically around those citizens with pending applications to the EUSS scheme and potential discrimination on the grounds of nationality.
Part 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 and Part 2 of the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement provide that discrimination on the grounds of nationality as against individuals who fall within scope of those Parts is prohibited.
Summary of Actions and Evidence
Having carefully considered the issues identified in combination with wider intelligence gathered by the IMA, pre-inquiry investigations were undertaken with the Council to seek clarity around the concerns shared.
The Council helpfully provided information as to their current method of dealing with applications from EU, EEA and EFTA citizens who wished to apply for a place on the Housing Waiting List and acknowledged that the letter originally sent out did not accurately set out the Council’s position on safeguarding the rights of those EU, EEA and EFTA who have made an in-time and or late application under the EUSS which is still pending.
As a result, the IMA engaged with the Council to seek confirmation of its working practices, understanding / implementation of the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement and EEA EFTA Separation Agreements, and training provided to staff members who manage housing waiting lists.
During correspondence with the Council, they helpfully detailed their working practices and understanding of the Withdrawal Agreement and EEA EFTA Separation Agreement to provide reassurance to the IMA of its practices in requesting evidence of status and its management of the list, particularly for those with pending applications to the EUSS. The Council were also able to confirm that it had not and would not be removing any EU, EEA and EFTA citizens with applications to the EUSS from the housing waiting list where they had not responded to the letter by the date stipulated. The Council confirmed that individuals who have made both in time and late applications under the EUSS and whose applications have yet to be determined, will remain on the housing register until their application has been determined by appeal or administrative review in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement and EEA EFTA Separation Agreement and in line with guidance issued by Central Government. The Council also confirmed that training for staff members is continuing. In addition, the IMA engaged with the Council to identify improvements to avoid the potential for misunderstanding and to ensure that EU, EEA and EFTA citizens on the Housing Waiting List with pending applications to the EUSS were able to do so in line with their Withdrawal Agreement or EEA EFTA Separation Agreement rights. The Council responded positively to proposals made and agreed to a series of actions designed to resolve the concern identified.
Summary of Decision
Newham Council has agreed to send correspondence to the original cohort of 4,711 EU citizens on the Housing List (excluding those who have asked to be removed for other reasons) clarifying the Council’s position on safeguarding the rights of those EU and EEA EFTA citizens who have made an in-time or late application under the EUSS which is still pending and apologising for any misunderstanding created by the earlier letter.
Summary of Monitoring and Compliance
The IMA considers that the action proposed will resolve the potential systemic concerns identified.
The IMA received confirmation from Newham Council on 24th September 2021 that they sent out the proposed clarification letter on 15th September 2021 to the original cohort of 4,711 EU, EEA and EFTA citizens who were recipients of the Council’s original correspondence.
The clarification letter confirmed the Council’s position on safeguarding the rights of those EU, EEA and EFTA citizens who are on the Council’s Housing Waiting List, who have made an in-time or late application for settled status which is still pending, and apologising for any misunderstanding created by the earlier letter.