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The government is now in a position where it can choose to claim back the funds from individuals or opt out of pursuing the money. It currently has plans to start a process of recovering the money that has been given to EU citizens by mistake..
Over 140,000 impacted
The report comes from the Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), which is a body set up to protect the rights of EU citizens agreed as part of the Brexit withdrawal deal. They have warned that there may be over 140,000 people who could be impacted and have made a statement seeking clarification from the Home Office on its current position, as per IMA:
We are seeking assurance that the EUSS digital system is fit for purpose, maintained and audited to reflect accurate digital statuses, and accurately available on demand for all eligible citizens.
This issue has arisen as many EU citizens lawfully living in the UK had access to benefits, which were then taken away in some cases after Brexit. They had been asked to apply through an EU Settled Status scheme and 141,000 of these were refused but did not have their status updated from ‘pending’ to ‘refused’. Due to this error by the Home Office, led by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, they continued to receive payments they were no longer entitled to.
A government spokesperson commented on the matter, as per Politics Home:
Millions have successfully applied to the EU Settlement Scheme and are using their status to prove their rights.
Where someone has been refused status, it's right that the Government takes action to correct their eVisa to reflect this status, to ensure that they only receive public funds and benefits that they are entitled to.
How to make a repayment
If you are one of the thousands affected by this, how you pay it back will depend on two factors as per Gov.uk:
- whether you’re making repayments for the first time or restarting them
- whether you still receive benefits
If you’re still receiving benefits, the regular amount you get will be reduced until you’ve paid back the money. It is possible to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Debt Management if you think too much has been taken for a repayment.
If you no longer receive benefits then you’ll get a letter from DWP Debt Management explaining how you can pay, including how you would like to spread the payments out.
It’s best to sort out the problem as soon as possible because if you do not pay back the money or get in touch DWP Debt Management they could:
- ask your employer to make deductions from your pay
- pass your case to an independent debt collector
- pass your case to the DWP Debt Enforcement Team
A Home Office spokesperson went on to advise, as per Politics Home:
We are working across government and with the EU and member states to understand any further implications and to ensure the situation is managed quickly and pragmatically.
- Politics Home 'Benefits Wrongly Paid To Thousands Of EU Citizens Due To Home Office Error'
- Gov.uk 'Benefit overpayments'
- IMA 'IMA Statement On Concerns Over EU Settlement Scheme'