Fight the Racist GPOW test – resist restrictions on benefits for people from beyond the UK

ECAP and Oficina Precaria have successfully supported a EU Migrant claimant in winning Jobseeker’s Allowance benefits and the Permanent Right to Reside, and putting an end to his harassment by DWP. In this article we want to provide some notes about this victory and a few reflections that we hope can support organised solidarity and resistance strategies for EU/ EEA and Non-EU migrants facing the harassment of the DWP.

In the last few months ECAP have been fighting alongside one of our members, an EU migrant claimant, contesting the systematic denial of his basic rights of jobseeker allowance and the absurd logic of the Genuine Prospect of Work Test. Our comrade from the first day he signed on had to continuously fight to get his rights recognised when he has been side-lined at every opportunity by DWP bureaucrats to the worst possible status.

Having resided in the UK for more than 8 years and worked continuously for 4.5 years, he met the conditions to qualify for permanent right to reside, but the DWP officials illegally forced him to go through the Habitual Residence Test from day one and the Genuine Prospect of Work test after only 90 days, following a procedure normally designed for migrants that have been in the country as a worker for less than 3 months. At that point his benefit was suspended because the DWP wrongly ruled he only had the Right of Residence as a Jobseeker, whereas in fact he had both Retained Worker status definition and should have also been awarded a Permanent Right To Reside status due to his permanence in the country for almost 8 years. It was only through his resistance supported by ECAP that his benefits were reinstated, even if only for a further 90 days at that stage.

The normality of DWP Bureaucratic Nightmare

During this period the DWP made all possible attempts to deny him this status preferring instead to engage with him in a strategy of slow deterrence forcing him to navigate a bureaucratic nightmare in order to demonstrate his rights. In the case of our comrade, when he provided evidence during one of his tests, this evidence was not accepted on the basis that it wasn`t required. Later, the DWP alleged that he told them he did not have comprehensive health insurance, which resulted in him being judged not to have Permanent Right to Reside, and thus his eligibility for JSA being limited to 6 months.

Thanks to immigration law consultancy offered by Oficina Precaria in conjunction with the welfare advice support provided by ECAP he then drafted 3 letters contesting the decision, providing lengthy evidence, and made one further official complaint to Leith Jobcentre, plus hours and hours of waiting over the phone, in order to speak with confused DWP officials. ECAP finds particularly telling that the DWP is seeking in every possible way to refuse to grant benefits to migrants. This demonstrates that the campaign of hostility by the state against migrants is deeply rooted in the UK benefit system through the denial of welfare to those migrants who should clearly be entitled to support. The current legislation, established before Brexit, has clearly set racist standards against EU migrants and its current implementation by the DWP seeks to create the maximum possible problems for EU claimants.

Breaking the Restrictive and Hostile Welfare

By restricting EU migrants access to benefits and denying them the possibility to demonstrate their rights DWP is acting in complicity with the home office restrictive and hostile legislation. This is due to the more and more unrecognised status that EU migrants are inhabiting within post Brexit Britain.

While in theory he didn`t need an official Permanent Right to Reside card to prove his right to benefits, our claimant comrade had to provide the DWP with evidence covering his health insurance, tax payments, payslip, bills and tenancies from the past 5 years in order to continue to receive his benefits and the housing benefits that allowed him to have a place to stay while looking for a job. The fact that this claimant had been homeless before losing his job had no relevance to the case put against him by the DWP but actually proved for them a point of strength in their aggression.

While the case of our comrade resulted positive with the obtaining of his permanent right to reside which eventually stopped the GPOW test from taking place, and restored our friend’s benefits for longer, this example clearly shows that EU migrants need not underestimate the obstinacy of the DWP in pursuing a drastic politics of limiting access to benefits for migrants in every possible way. For this reason, if you are reading this report and you`re a EU/EEA migrant than you should expect the DWP to seek to deny your right to claim in all possible ways and it might be a hard and time-consuming struggle to reverse their decision once taken.

This is a lesson that ECAP has clearly learnt from supporting British claimants more generally, but now the new racist legislation introduced in 2014 to limit the access to benefits for EU migrants has created new tools for the DWP to exercise their cruelty against claimants. Clearly, we can expect this context only to worsen with the coming of Brexit and the effective dismantling of EU laws protecting EU migrants citizens in the UK. As shown from the rise in deportations of EU migrants in the past 12 months, we can already prefigure what Brexit will mean for EU migrants.

If you are an EU or EEA migrant please click here for advice on tactics in dealing with the DWP and jobcentre, including lessons we learned from this case detailed in our leaflet ‘Fighting Hostility with Solidarity’.

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