Real horror stories

By Emma McClelland - 31 October 2022

Last week we parodied a series of scary movies on social media to draw attention to the systemic issues preventing people, especially low-paid migrants, from accessing their rights. From the pitfalls of the EU Settlement Scheme whose backlog has disadvantaged EU citizens and their family members, to the bureaucratic hurdles blocking people's access to financial lifelines like Universal Credit, the horror stories we shared were not works of fiction. 

In this post, we share what inspired each one, and urge the organisations involved to take action and prevent further harm to the lives and livelihoods of our beneficiaries. 

288 days later

Our first film poster is a direct response to the EUSS backlog, which - as of 30 June 2022, the release date of the government's latest statistics - stood at just over 225,000. The structural problem of understaffing across the Home Office has left a significant number of EU citizens in limbo - uncertain about their status in the UK, and doubtful of their ability to exercise their basic rights to work, rent, and travel. 

One of our beneficiaries, a Portuguese woman, waited for two years for a decision on her child's EUSS application. We called the Home Office repeatedly for her and were told that 'technical issues' were to blame. But this did little to help a mother uncertain about her child's future, and anxious to travel for fear of problems at the border.


EUSS applicants have been hindered by the Home Office's digital-only approach to the EUSS, which inspired our second film poster. One of our advisers vividly recalls a surge in beneficiaries reaching out because they could neither see their application in the system, nor generate a share code.

The consequences of relying upon digital technology to demonstrate one's immigration status and related rights are significant. Our advisers heard from a number of workers who provided employers with a 'share code' only to find that IT glitches or employers' poor knowledge of the process made it impossible to verify their status.

There is also the issue of digital literacy to contend with. National statistics from the ONS show that, in 2018, there were still 5.3 million people in the UK who never used the internet, or did so longer than three months ago.

By enforcing a digital-only status, the Home Office is perpetuating the digital divide, which disproportionately affects disadvantaged users. From 12 March 2021 to 22 March 2022, 42% of the EU citizens who contacted us reported struggling to issue a share code. So, while this method works for some people, nothing can replace the simplicity of physical proof.


Our friends at the3million have repeatedly flagged technical issues with the Gov.UK platform used by EU citizens to prove their status under the EUSS. These issues include instances where a user's online immigration status had become entangled with someone else's. 

Our advisers have experienced similar tech-related issues while helping beneficiaries, frequently coming up against error messages. Recently, we were trying to submit an EUSS application for someone who'd been having issues with Universal Credit. He's eligible for settled status, which will resolve those issues. But we were prevented from making the application by the IT system. It couldn't run checks to find his records and advised us to try again later! 

People are reliant upon systems like these to access vital financial lifelines and prove they have rights in this country. If the government is keen to take a digital-first approach, the technology and processes underlying it must improve.


There is no frustration more universal, if you'll pardon the pun, than spending hours on hold to the Universal Credit helpline to ultimately be cut off! Our advisers frequently contact DWP departments, including Universal Credit, on behalf of our beneficiaries for a number of reasons (one of the most troubling being the sudden suspension of claims without explanation)

We have many examples of people, often single mothers, plunged into financial hardship because this lifeline has been cut off. For those who are working, it's hard enough to find the time to call a helpline. When language barriers are involved, it's even harder. Our plea to the DWP is for better communication and transparency. People cannot have their safety net removed like this without any instruction on the actions needed to remedy the situation.

If you've been affected by any of the issues flagged in our Halloween campaign, please get in touch. Our multilingual team can help with EUSS applications and administrative reviews, Universal Credit claims and suspensions, and employment rights and employability advice. Everything's less scary when you've got the right support.

Or, to ensure our team can continue to provide life-enhancing advice to those in need, please consider making a donation.

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