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Camden EU national has 'no right to reside' as Universal Credit claim rejected despite 20 years in borough

PUBLISHED: 08:23 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 11 April 2019

Adam Zelik. Picture: Polly Hancock

Adam Zelik. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

A Camden Town EU national has had his universal credit application refused after he failed to pass the “habitual residency test” – despite living and paying tax in the UK for nearly 20 years.

Dad-of-one Adam Zelik applied for the benefit in February after injuring his back while working as a photographic technician while he tried to move a photo booth.

The 40-year-old moved to the UK from the Czech Republic in 2000, and has lived in a council flat for the last 12 years.

When he stopped working, he was initially on employment and support allowance (ESA), which is in the process of being phased out. He was advised to apply for the new Universal Credit benefit, which is when the problems began.

“I did the application after I was told to apply, and provided all the documents I thought I needed to – my student loan, proof of employment, my tenancy agreement, P60, P45 – and they wrote back afterwards saying I’d failed it,” he said.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had responded to Adam saying he didn’t have rights to claim benefits.

The letter rejecting his appeal said as an EEA national, entitlement to Universal Credit isn’t automatic – and as he was not working he could not be “treated as a worker”.

It also said his evidence didn’t show five years’ continuous employment, which would give him right to reside.

But this is contrary to the Home Office’s own advice. According to its website, you qualify as having right to reside if you have lived in the UK for five years.

“They said I haven’t sent them enough information,” he added. “They also said I don’t have any close family members in the country, but I have an 18-month-old daughter.”

Now Adam’s MP, Sir Keir Starmer, and Camden Town with Primrose Hill councillor Richard Cotton are both assisting him as he looks to take the government department to a tribunal.

Cllr Cotton said: “I find it incredible that someone can be refused benefits from failing the habitual residency test when they have lived here and paid taxes for 20 years. It puts great pressure on people.

“Universal Credit has been a disaster. The overall situation with EU nationals is worrying at the moment, and this adds to it.” The DWP had not responded to requests for comment as the Ham&High went to press.

Update

The DWP sent us a statement about Adam’s case on Thursday afternoon.

In it, a spokesperson said: “Mr Zelik continues to receive benefit support through ESA while he is appealing the outcome of his work capability assessment.

“Jobcentre staff spoke to Mr Zelik and his support worker last month to explain he can appeal the HRT [habitual residency test] decision or make a new UC [Universal Credit] claim by providing us with appropriate evidence of the right to reside, but he hasn’t yet responded.”

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