By Jonathan Isaby
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And how do those from elsewhere in the EU qualify to claim benefits in this country anyway? Again, there's no way of knowing because the Government has not defined the rules in law.
Readers may be alarmed to hear all this, but the explanations are below in black and white in written answers from the Work and Pensions Minister, replying to questions posed by the Conservative MP for St Albans, Anne Main, and passed exclusively to ConservativeHome.
Here are those stark questions and answers:
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether his Department plans to publish on its website information on the cost to the public purse of benefits claimed by nationals of other EU member states working in the UK.
Chris Grayling: The information referred to is not available. The UK's benefit and tax credit payment systems do not record the nationality of people receiving such benefits. I have therefore commissioned my officials to look at alternative ways of making this information available. EU nationals who have worked and paid sufficient National Insurance contributions and meet the other conditions of entitlement, may be entitled to contributory benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance. Those who have not paid sufficient contributions may claim income-related benefits (Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) providing they satisfy the Habitual Residence Test.
So what exactly is this Habitual Residence Test?
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what plans he has to bring forward proposals on the definition of habitual residence.
Chris Grayling: There are no plans to bring forward such proposals. To be eligible for an income-related benefit such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, a claimant must have a right to reside and be habitually resident in the Common Travel Area (ie the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland). This is known as the Habitual Residence Test. A person who fails either or both parts of the test is treated as a person from abroad and does not have access to such benefits.
The term "habitual residence" is not defined in social security legislation. This means that each case is considered on its own merits, in the light of the person's individual circumstances. In deciding whether a person is actually habitually resident, decision makers, who decide entitlement to benefit, consider a wide variety of factors. These include reasons for coming to the United Kingdom, the length of their stay, future intentions, previous links with the country and, in the case of people returning to the United Kingdom, the reasons for their absence.
I suspect this is something we can expect Anne Main to be pursuing further…