Thousands of benefit claimants across the UK may have to repay payments which they incorrectly received. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) error is down to a failure to update records.
The mistake comes from an error made by the Home Office. Those who were living in the UK and claimed benefits before Brexit, but were refused a citizens status after the UK left the European Union, may have to pay money back to the DWP.
As reported by Lancashire Live, over 5.5 million people have been granted status. A government spokesperson assured Brits that this development has no impact on anyone who has been granted status.
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The Independent Monitoring Authority (IMA), a body set up to monitor citizens' rights following the Brexit withdrawal agreement, spotted the oversight and warned that tens of thousands of people may be affected. At the heart of the issue is a database update error.
Although the Home Office is thought to have written to those refused EU Settled Status, it did not immediately update its eVisas database. Around 141,000 EU citizens who applied for EU Settled status were refused between June 2021 and April 2022, although the DWP says only a small proportion of that number is likely to be affected and have to repay money.
The failure to update the records meant people who had been refused settled status were still categorised as 'pending'. This meant they continued to receive benefits and access to public funds to that they were not entitled to.
The status of their application was left as "pending" because it was required by the Brexit withdrawal agreement to protect the rights of people who wanted to immediately appeal the decision. However, thousands of people who did not immediately appeal the refusal and continued to receive benefits until the Home Office updated the statuses to 'Refused' on the eVisa database on January 18.
A DWP spokesperson said: "We are still working through how many people are affected and how much is owed. Once we know, we will write to the individuals affected and will consider payment arrangements. The total number affected is likely to be a small proportion of the 141,000 people."
The IMA said it was concerned about the impact this could have on those affected. It has written to the Home Office to seek clarity on the steps that have already been taken.
The IMA said: "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. We will consider the response of the Home Office to our request for information before deciding on what next steps we may take.”
On the issue of EU citizens having received benefits, a Government spokesperson said: "The online digital status for some EU Settlement Scheme applicants who were refused status has been updated in line with the decision taken on their application, which had already been communicated to the individuals concerned. 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.”