David Cameron wants to toughen welfare rules for EU migrants. Photo: Getty
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What are EU migrants entitled to in terms of benefits and housing, and when?

David Cameron wants to delay benefits to EU migrants for four years, Labour for two years. What are they currently entitled to, when, and how much do they claim?

Upon arriving in this country, what can EU migrants receive in terms of benefits, and when?

The government has recently introduced harsher rules for what EU migrants can receive. These include jobseekers from the European Economic Area (EEA) – predominantly migrants from EU states – having to wait three months before they can claim for Jobseekers’ Allowance. This is the same for accessing child benefit and child tax credits.

To stay longer than three months, they have to be in work, actively seeking work, or have a genuine chance of being hired. Either that, or they have to prove that they have the resources to remain without being a burden on public services.

EU migrants cannot automatically claim benefits after three months. They have to pass a “habitual residence test” under EU law. This covers the individual’s status regarding their duration of stay, activity, income if they are students, family status, and housing situation. Even if they pass this, they can then only claim Jobseekers’ Allowance for six months – after that, only those with a job offer or proof they are likely to find work are allowed to continue claiming.

On top of the tests required under EU law, the UK applies an additional test: the “right to reside”. This limits certain benefits. The European Commission sees this as an unfair extra hurdle and has referred the UK to the EU’s Court of Justice on the matter.

 

How many of them are housed by the state?

There are similar levels of UK nationals and foreign-born individuals living in social housing: 17 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively. It is not the case that immigrants receive preferential treatment on council housing lists.

The immigrant population is almost three times as likely to be in the private rental sector than their UK-born neighbours: 38 per cent compared to 14 per cent.

From April this year, new EEA migrant jobseekers have no longer been allowed housing benefit.

The housing minister Brandon Lewis commented:

Foreign nationals coming to the UK should be under no illusion that they will get free housing if they fall on hard times. They will find no stepping stones to a social home, because we’ve changed the rules so local people have priority.

 

Can they bring family over?

Yes, providing their family members are EU citizens. They will be subject to the same scrutiny as outlined above.

 

How many migrants are in employment?

The latest DWP figures from 2014 show that there are 1.73m EU nationals working in the UK, equal to 5.7 per cent of all people in work. There are 1.19m non-EU nationals working in the UK, which is 3.9 per cent.

The employment rate for non-UK born workers is 70 per cent, compared to the 73.2 per cent of UK born workers. The employment rate for EU nationals living in the UK is 79 per cent. This is according to the latest figures, from the April-June 2014 Labour Force Survey.

The UK is the only EU country to have a lower unemployment rate for migrants than nationals (7.5 per cent to 7.9 per cent respectively), suggesting a key reason for migration to the UK is to find work.

Since the early 2000s, the presence of foreign-born workers has grown fastest in relatively low-skilled jobs.

 

How many of them claim benefits?

Less than 5 per cent of EU migrants are claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, while less than 10 per cent are claiming other DWP working-age benefits.

On top of this, the think tank Class found that of those who claim Jobseekers’ Allowance, 91.5 per cent are UK nationals. Additionally, among unemployed migrants, only 1 per cent claim unemployment benefits, compared to the 4 per cent of unemployed UK nationals who are claimants.

Rather than being “benefit tourists”, migrants to the UK make a net contribution, as they pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits. A UCL study this month found that the UK gains £20bn from European migrants. And a study by the OECD last year found that migrants make a net contribution of over £2000 per head.

 

Sources: Spokespeople at the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Department for Communities and Local Government; European Commission report, 2012 http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/economic_paper/2012/pdf...4_en.pdf; the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford; the Migration Matters Trust; the Office of National Statistics; the Refugee Council; Turn2Us; the BBC; British Future; Class report Why immigration is good for all of us http://classonline.org.uk/docs/why_immigration_is_good_for_all_of_us.pdf; House of Commons Library: Asylum Statistics, 5 August 2014 file:///Users/anooshchakelian/Downloads/SN01403%20(1).pdf; Eurostat statistics; OECD International Migration Outlook 2013 http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/social-issues-migration-health/international-migration-outlook-2013_migr_outlook-2013-en#page1

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear