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Lucie's Story

Supporting Roma communities

Lucie is a Community Development Worker with Darnall Well Being, supporting Slovak Roma communities in Sheffield. She shares her journey and ongoing issues she’s seeing people experiencing in the UK.

“I first came to the UK 22 years ago, and have been supporting communities since 2016. Most people I support are from the Slovakian Roma community. There’s no language barrier, so it puts people at ease, being able to speak to me in their own language. 

At Darnall Well Being, we started outreach in 2019, supporting people with EU Settlement Scheme applications. The word spread really quickly, and we’ve always had lots of people coming to us. We’ve supported over 7,900 people ever since. 

Once you help someone in the local community, word gets around. Team members gain trust quickly, as there isn’t a language barrier and we provide quality support. We’re always over-subscribed, and with shrinking funding, we’re trying to be creative and support people through information provision, but more help is always needed. 

At the moment, we are seeing many women experiencing hardship. Usually they’ve joined their partners in the UK and arrived after Dec 2020, so they have to prove their relationship has started before that date and it’s a durable relationship. They need legal advice and people are signposted to Citizen Advice or to solicitors who are expensive and often unaffordable. They often have children with their partner in the UK, the baby gets status through the father, but the mum is stuck in limbo. 

Similarly, we’re seeing many cases of babies who are born British, as one of their parents has permanent residency rights in the UK, but parents experience many hurdles in applying for a British passport. They need to have known someone whose job is on a list of certain professions, who has to act as a referee. For most, this is just not a reality of their lives. So many Slovakian Roma children will grow up without having proof of their British nationality, which they are entitled to.

Children can also get charged by the NHS, as their parents don’t know that they can make a paper application for their kids even before they get the child’s passport from the embassy. The deadline for them is three months after birth. 

Many people are also struggling to put together residence evidence for 5 years for  their settled status applications. Rental agreements in this community are often handwritten, they don’t receive invoices or receipts from their landlords, and the Home Office may not accept this as proof of residence. It’s really difficult to prove five years of continuous residence, especially for stay at home mums with childcare responsibilities. Automatic conversions to settled status are unlikely to  help the people in this community, as they don’t usually have a continuous job for 5 years.

It’s clear that going forward people still need support, and ongoing engagement. Many people still need help with applications for settled status, and to navigate the digital-only system. A physical back-up document would go a long way in helping people prove their status, and a better record of evidence and applications in the Home Office’s system would also help advisers ensure they have all the information they need to represent people to the best of their ability."

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