Opinion: Action needed to protect our NHS
PUBLISHED: 12:30 23 January 2020
As the now inevitable Brexit leaving day rapidly approaches at the end of January, so just some of the negative consequences are already starting to show, even before the detailed talks as to the UK's future relationship have hardly begun.
Our local NHS services are facing tremendous strain, as A&E waiting times go through the roof and staffing shortages grow as
EU nationals working in the NHS go home or do not apply to come for jobs in the first place. A&E waiting times - with a four hour target - was met in only 77 per cent of the time at UCLH and 80pc at Royal Free over December, and that was at a time when the winter weather was by no means at its worst.
EU citizens living in London are understandably worried about their right to stay after January 31, 2020. Yet UCLH Trust depends on 15pc of its staff coming from other EU countries, Royal Free 14pc, and Camden and Islington 13pc.
We can get a taste of what is in store for overseas citizens as the Conservative Brexit Bill removed government obligations to child refugees - the previously accepted Alf Dubs amendment has been binned by Boris Johnson.
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Boris Johnson has flip-flopped - he supported immigration when Mayor of London, but in the referendum, claimed that "The only way to take back control of immigration is to Vote Leave", showing him untrustworthy when it comes to securing rights for EU Londoners.
And we should be concerned not only about the effect on our public services of staff shortages with falling numbers of EU workers, but also the impact on children from overseas who have made London home.
There are big gaps in pre-settled and settled status, particularly around vulnerable Londoners- an estimated 107,000 children and a further 26,000 18-24 year olds are living in London without secure immigration status. Despite more than half being born in the UK, these young people are being excluded from life in London by government policies that leave them unable to access higher education, open a bank account, apply for a driving licence, secure housing or employment. Those above the age of 18 also face the threat of deportation to a country they may never have even visited.
Brexit has created the potential for an even deeper crisis if the 260,000 European-national children and 96,000 European-national young people living in the capital are not supported in applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, or for citizenship. EU citizens must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021.
The Conservative government has not learned the lessons of the Windrush scandal, which caused such distress, loss, hardship or worse to those who came as children to the UK in the '50s and '60s. They are creating exactly the same conditions for the child migrants of today.
The prime minister must take urgent action to support these young people to secure their futures.
It is vital that ministers provide financial support to advice services, cut extortionate immigration and citizenship fees and reinstate legal aid for children's immigration cases.