A taskforce set up by Cambridgeshire County Council to look at the impact of Brexit says fears have been raised by the community and voluntary sector over “inequalities and poverty, pressures upon their services and funding for their work”.
A report to the audit committee spotlights “concerns that a potential ‘black market’ is beginning to emerge with small advice agencies offering ‘charged for support’ in applying for EU settled status.
“We will counter by increased publicity around the free support offered by our councils”.
The report says that whilst the date of leaving the European Union is still not clear “it is imperative that the council seeks to identify the potential impacts of this on our organisation, our staff, and our residents”.
Groups have been set up by the county council to focus on workforce engagement, community and councillor engagement, hate crime mitigation, and data sharing implications.
Work is also ongoing to promote the EU Settlement Scheme, targeted work with EU citizen employees and identifying Looked After Children (LAC) and other vulnerable people who are EU citizens.
The council is helping to provide information on what people should do if they are visiting or living in EU countries as “it is felt that this will provide some balance against the focus on EU citizens living in the UK”.
“It has been agreed that it is a priority to encourage affected members of our own workforce to apply for settled status as soon as possible,” says the report.
The county council says they have asked for a better explanation of ‘criminality’ when looking at settled status applications.
“We believe that it would be very helpful to understand the threshold for acceptance that will be applied, as we are aware that this is likely to generate considerable concern amongst some members of our population,” says the report.
They also want clarification of what ‘vulnerable people’ means and the minimum standards to be applied, in relation to supporting people to apply for settled status.
“We stressed the need for the vulnerable people definition to include people with very limited English or IT skills as they would tend to rely on others to complete the documentation process and hence remain vulnerable to be exploited (financially) or have their data stolen/misused.” says the report.
Schools are being briefed on possible disruption to food and fuel prices including public transport for school staff and pupils.
The report says: “The duty as a local authority employer to communicate to EU staff to reassure them around the work being undertaken to help with settlement, as well as issues around the rights of low skilled jobs earning under £30k, highlighting that their protection had been removed. “
The Brexit task force is messaging employees about the settlement scheme and “there will be further targeted work with EU employees to encourage them to apply for settled status and to determine if they require assistance”.
With regard to the £30k threshold, the government is still consulting on this, says the taskforce, and it is widely anticipated that the new immigration legislation will bring this level down and explain how it affects those currently employed.
The report also looks at what the council can do to with rising tensions in the community” highlighting that some children could be bringing to school some of the negative views expressed by their parents?”.
“The importance of EU and other non UK citizens in supporting the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy is being stressed,” says the report. “The Tension Monitoring Group and Hate Crime Task and Finish Group are closely monitoring the community tension situation.
“Reported hate crime for the month of February remains low with no notable cases relating to EU communities.”
On medicines the report says “local communications on national guidance has been sent to GPs and the local message to providers continues to be not to stockpile medication supplies”.
“A local system wide drug shortage group has been established and meets weekly to enable close oversight of medicines availability. An ongoing dialogue is in place with NRS Healthcare, our community equipment supplier, who has assured us that they have business continuity plans in place”.
The report adds: “We will begin to collect information to inform the next stage of the Brexit impact assessment which will address longer term impacts beyond the initial six months.”