In April 2021 the IMA received a complaint about the way in which Pembrokeshire County Council (“the Council”) were processing applications to join the Housing Waiting List.
Concern was expressed about the consequences of potential systemic issues with the application process specifically around 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 the complaint 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 for a place on the Housing Waiting List and acknowledged that the online application forms and process should be updated to ensure it was in line with Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement . The Council also acknowledged that bespoke training on assessing service entitlement in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement and the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement was required for staff processing of housing applications.
As a result the IMA engaged with the Council to identify improvements to avoid the potential for misunderstanding and to ensure that EU, EEA and EFTA citizens applying to be placed on the Housing Waiting List are able to do so in line with their Withdrawal Agreement rights. The Council responded positively to proposals made and agreed to a series of actions designed to resolve the concerns identified.
During correspondence with Pembrokeshire County Council, they helpfully detailed the additional steps planned by them to address the concerns of the IMA raised in the original complaint. The effectiveness of such will be monitored by the IMA.
Summary of Decision
Pembrokeshire County Council have agreed to undertake the following actions with the objective of improving the service provided:
a) Update their housing application form and supporting guidance to include provision for EU, EEA and EFTA citizens to provide a share code or Certificate of Application as appropriate;
b) Undertake a review of their Allocations Policy as a result of the changes proposed to the housing application form and supporting guidance (scheduled for Winter 2021/2022);
c) Provide confirmation to the IMA of the Council’s ability to receive and check share codes and electronic evidence of CoA’s;
d) Provide an example of correspondence that will be issued to an EU, EEA and EFTA citizen applying to the housing list explaining how they can evidence their status and eligibility to join the housing list; and
e) Arrange for staff involved in the processing housing applications to attend training sessions organised by the Welsh Government.
Summary of Monitoring and Compliance
The IMA considers that the actions proposed will resolve the potential systemic concerns identified.
The IMA will monitor Pembrokeshire County Council’s compliance with these actions with a proposed end date of 28th February 2022. The IMA will publish an update at the end of the monitoring phase.
Update of Monitoring and Compliance
The IMA has concluded the Monitoring & Compliance period with Pembrokeshire County Council and consider the actions that have been completed will resolve the potential systemic issues identified.
However, should the IMA receive any further intelligence or complaints regarding the issue in future, further enquiries may be made with the relevant public authority, wherever necessary.
The complaints submitted to us help build a picture of where there are common, wide-reaching, or systemic issues with how UK public bodies are implementing the Withdrawal Agreement(s) for EU and EEA EFTA citizens’ rights.