Raluca Enescu, like all EU citizens and pro EU Brits was very upset when the UK left the EU on 31st January 2020. Still, she stopped airing her anger on social media to drive even more divisions between people on the opposite sides of the Brexit argument. Instead, she decided to put her energy into something that would help people in difficulties trying to navigate the social security and employment system. She volunteered at the Work Rights Centre.
What did I do when hope ran out?
“The very next day, I got out of bed, grabbed my bag, and like every single Saturday for more than a year, I went to the Manchester Central Library, where I held advice sessions for the charity Work Rights Centre.
I did two settled status applications for EU citizens. Then I helped two Romanian builders get the money owed for their hard work from a crook who refused to pay them. Next, I taught a French clerk and an Italian plumber how to write CVs. I also helped a young Roma family rent a flat.
Then I went home and wrote about it on Facebook. This is how we will resist. This is how we will rebuild this country, each and every one of us in our communities, I had written at the time. At the end of my message, I asked people to donate to my project on Facebook. ”
Work Rights Centre
In less than a week, Work Rights Centre received more than £1000 in donations. The vast majority of these came from people I had met through former campaigning on social media. Some of them I knew from rallies and marches, some of them I knew online, some were just in the same Facebook groups that I was. That day, it felt like we truly were a community; and that we still have the power to do a lot of good.
Between then and now, the Manchester branch of Work Rights Centre has helped a few hundred people. We now have a second staff member, a small but perky team of volunteers. We have secured more stable funding to continue doing what we do.
For my part, I still believe the future of the UK is in the EU rather than outside of it, and that one day we shall rejoin. I do acknowledge, though, that this may well be several decades away; and in the meantime we have a lot more urgent work to do on our hands. So this is what I do now.
The biggest thing I have learned from not stopping Brexit is that when hope runs out, the only thing you can do is to find something else that gives you hope. You have to keep moving, keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep doing what’s in front of you instead of fixating on what you wish you could be doing.
Issues with applying for settled status (EUSS) for EU citizens
The deadline for European citizens living in the UK to apply for settled status was end of June this year. Many organisations and charities have lobbied the government to extend this deadline. Unfortunately, the application process and the need to apply for EUSS has not reached thousands of vulnerable people.
Since the application form is online, some elderly EU citizens don’t have the know-how or the equipment to apply. Also, children who are in care might fall through the cracks. Some employers, who now are asked to check employment status of their staff, are not aware of the fact that the Home Office does not issue a hard copy document or an ID as proof of residency and right to work. EU citizens have to apply for a code online which they have to send to their employer or prospective employer. This code is only valid for a month, some EU citizens have encountered issues with this process.
EU citizen’s organisations have tried to persuade the government to issue European citizens in the UK the same card they give to Commonwealth citizens. Since the system already exists, one can ask why this is not afforded to EU citizens. Some have lived in the UK for decades, worked here, paid taxes and have British partners, children and grandchildren.
The Home Secretary has not shown much flexibility towards migrants, and EU citizens are in danger of being classified as illegal migrants. Some reports indicate that there might be around 400,000 Europeans in the UK who have either not yet applied for or not received their EUSS. The worry is that this is another Windrush type scandal waiting to happen.
Newspapers have also uncovered that EU citizens coming to the UK for a job interview have been detained at the border and handcuffed. This is not what the government promised during the leave campaign:
London office of Work Rights Centre
If you are interested in volunteering at the Work Rights Centre, or think you might need their help, there is a LONDON office which covers the South East. Their mission is:
“to help UK and EU nationals exit precarious work, and equip them with the tools to access fair and lawful employment. To this end, we assist individual workers to understand the UK labour market and access their employment rights, but also seek to engage local authorities, central government and civil society in an effort to raise the public profile of precarious work, and break the vicious cycle of insecurity and isolation which it engenders.”
Please, watch the video on the newest changes to employment and how to get and pass on the code to prove your settled status and right to work:
This channel keeps you up to date with changing requirements and how to jump through the hoops. You can contact the Work Right Centre here.