Brexit and the rights of young people in Scotland

May 18th 2021

Mary-Claire Kelly is a senior lawyer at Clan Childaw. She has extensive experience in the field of housing and homelessness law. She is recognised by the law society of Scotland as an accredited specialist in Housing and Residential Tenancy Law. 

30th JUNE 2021. In a pandemic year, filled with shifting dates marking the transition out of lockdown, the deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme has remained fixed. As the clock runs down, and with reports of a backlog of applications already in the hundreds of thousands, there are concerns about how Brexit will impact young people and in particular young people with care experience. 

The requirement to apply for settled status applies to children and young people as well as to adults from the EU living in the UK. An application must be made for each child or young person. Children and young people who do not apply will suddenly be deprived of most of their rights. They will have no entitlement to benefits, to the NHS or to housing, they will lose their right to vote, and they will be ineligible for student finance. Without lawful status, these children and young people will have no right to remain in the UK.

Research by the Children’s Society showed that in early 2021, less than 40% of looked after children and young people in the UK identified as needing to secure status had applied.

Most children and young people will rely on parents to complete the application process however looked after young people rely on local authorities to ensure that an application is made. Government guidance states that local authorities in Scotland must apply on behalf of children subject to a permanence order. For all other looked after children, and for care leavers, local authorities must provide information, advice, and assistance to apply.

The government issued guidance on 6th April 2021 which states that in most cases when a child or young person was under 18 and failed to apply to the to the EUSS by the deadline that will normally constitute reasonable grounds for the child to make a late application to the scheme. Whilst this will provide some comfort, it falls short of guaranteeing the rights of children and young people. In particular, the position of care leavers and other young people over the age of 18 after the deadline remains unclear.

It seems inevitable that a significant number of children and young people will find themselves without legal settled status when the deadline passes. On 1st July 2021 they will find themselves ineligible for housing benefits with no right to work, study and live in the UK. Questions remain as to how they will be supported and provided with essential services.  It is vital that these children and young people are provided with the support necessary to allow them to complete the application process and get advice about showing they have reasonable grounds for a late application.

Helping children and young people to get the right legal advice and help to claim settled status has never been more important. Getting children and young people legal help at this crucial time can make a real difference to their future.