Government criticised for settled status hotline call charges
Campaign group and politicians urge Home Office to scrap charge of up to 40p per minute
EU citizens applying for the Settled Status scheme are being charged up to 40p a minute to use the official Home Office helpline.
Campaigners demanded the charges be scrapped, as they claimed some callers were spending 20 minutes on the phone on multiple occasions as they grappled with the system.
The government has already waived the original £65 fee for the scheme, which has been established for EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years or more to retain the same rights after Brexit.
Calls to the Settlement Resolution Centre are made to an 0300 number, which costs up to 10p a minute from landlines and between 3p to 40p a minute from mobiles.
During the second trial phase of the Settled Status application scheme, more than a third of the 30,000 applicants called the number for help.
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Labour MP Kate Green, who supports the People’s Vote campaign, said it was “outrageous” that EU citizens who have lived in the UK for years “are still being made to hand over money just to keep their existing rights”.
“These are our colleagues, our neighbours, our friends and in some cases our families,” she told PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome. “The government’s behaviour towards them is beneath contempt. It’s no wonder that growing numbers of EU citizens, especially those working in the NHS, are leaving the UK. These hidden call charges must be scrapped immediately.”
A spokesperson for the 3 Million campaign, which represents EU citizens living in Britain, said some applicants had been forced to make several 20-minute calls to the hotline for help with the process.
“Either the Home Office makes the process easier, so applicants don't have to call, or they should abolish the call charges,” a spokesperson said.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "The EU Settlement Scheme makes it easy for EU citizens to get the UK immigration status they need. The online process is designed to be as straightforward as possible, but anyone can call the 03 number for help. These low-cost numbers are often part of inclusive minutes in mobile phone packages.
“There is also £9 million of funding available to voluntary and community sector organisations to help us reach more vulnerable or at-risk EU citizens and their family members directly, so no one gets left behind."
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