25th November 2017

Case studies

Disabled people and those who care for their disabled family members in the UK are severely affected by Brexit. While their EU friends and neighbours apply for a permanent residence card and even for British citizenship after they have obtained a permanent residence card, they still have to sit and wait what the negotiations might bring.

Also the new proposed so-called “settled status” makes no provisions for disabled people and carers and still expects that people have “exercised treaty rights”. This means that they must have worked or studied for example to get this status. We have collected case studies from a wide range of disabled people and carers from the EU who live in the UK to show how they are affected by Brexit. We need provisions for these groups in any new status if “exercising treaty rights” will be a requirement to obtain the new status. All of our case studies are real cases of real people.

Do you want to tell us your story? Please contact us.

Name: Yragael
Age: 42
Nationality: French

Yragael can’t secure his status at the moment. In 1979, the French citizen arrived in the UK from France aged four. He was born with Spina Bifida (spinal cord injury) and has a mobility and cognitive impairment. He uses a wheelchair.

For decades that wasn’t a problem. The Frenchman got the support he needed and received all benefits any British citizen in his situation would also get.

Recently, Yragael was shocked to discover that the British government had suddenly stopped his benefit payment because of his citizenship. Due to his impairment, he has never been able to work and has been fully reliant on benefits payments to live his life. His MP supported his case, so he managed to get his benefits reinstated.

Yragael wants to secure his status to avoid a similar occurrence in the future and to apply for a permanent residence card. Unfortunately, he had to face that it is not so easy for him to fulfil the requirements. So he decided to work for a couple of hours a week. His impairment doesn’t let him work more hours than that. It is unclear if these hours will be enough to secure his status and if he will be considered as “working” after Brexit.

Name: Bettina (not her real name)
Age: 48
Nationality: German

Bettina arrived in the UK in 1996. In 1991 she met her now ex-husband, a British soldier, in Germany. Her first child was born in 1993 in a British army hospital in Germany. Three years later her then-husband was transferred back to the UK and B. moved with him.

Shortly after they had arrived in the UK, her child was diagnosed with a severe form of autism. The army family officer recommended that Bettina applies for a carer’s allowance to be able to care for her child full time. Her second child is also disabled. For decades Bettina received benefits for her children.

Like many other European citizens in the UK, Bettina wanted to apply for a permanent residence card but the Home Office told her on the phone, after more than 20 years in the country, her application would be denied if she applied.

In light of Brexit, lawyers advised her not to apply to the Home Office and to wait instead for the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. “I was totally shocked,” says Bettina, “I have just done what the British Army told me to do. I have just looked after my disabled children as everyone expected from me.”

She hasn’t visited Germany since 2001. Her children don’t speak any German and can’t learn the language easily due to their impairments. Going back to Germany is therefore not an option for her.

Name: Deniz
Age: 50
Nationality: Cypriot

Deniz came to the UK in 2006 and followed her mother who was already living in the UK for decades. Deniz has epilepsy and mental health issues and needed the support of her mother after she became ill in her home country. She was told she is not fit for work but volunteered in a gardening project for many years.

In 2012 Deniz applied for British Citizenship but got refused. She was told because she couldn’t work, she was not exercising treaty rights and therefore not eligible to become British. Deniz is also transgender and would have severe difficulties to live in her home country again where she suffered transphobic abuse in the past.

Name: Jana (not her real name)
Age: 29
Nationality: Slovakian

Jana came to the UK in 2008 and started working for a catering company. 16 hours shifts a day were normal. During winter time the company was not busy, so she was only asked to work a couple of hours a week. She got a second job which helped her over the winter.

In 2009 she met her husband. They married and got two children. Both pregnancies were difficult. During that time her husband was diagnosed with cancer and went for radio- and chemotherapy. Jana had to give up work during this time.

Her husband won the battle against cancer and both went back to work. They shared the childcare until they noticed that their older son didn’t develop as other children. He wasn’t speaking and didn’t react when his name was called. He also had difficulties eating. In 2014 he was diagnosed with autism. Jana became the full-time carer for her son.

A year later her younger son got diagnosed with a severe form of autism too. Her husband had to give up work as well as it became to difficult to care for both children. Jana wasn’t able to get a permanent residence card because she never worked for five consecutive years in the UK.

Name: Dyi
Age: 39
Nationality: Dutch

Dyi became chronically ill in 2003. After her conditions stabilised sufficiently, she decided to pursue an academic career. In 2009 she came to the UK to do her PhD in sociology. Her studies went very well, and she started to prepare an application for a post-doctoral position. Unfortunately, in 2012 her eye inflammations flared up badly after mild flu, and she went from medication to medication, from side effect to more side effects. In 2015 her medical conditions spiralled even worse with new unrelated symptoms, diagnoses and impairments.

She worked in universities since she started her PhD, but had to take various interruptions from her studies and between paid jobs. She now works irregularly as a freelance academic tutor while finally completing her PhD. Due to the interruptions, she cannot evidence five continuous years in employment and studies.

Dyi depends on daily medication and regular medical care and interventions and cannot live in a country without access to healthcare. In the Netherlands, there is no space for the type of academic work she does, and with her medical needs, she cannot work elsewhere. She fears to have to give up her dream of becoming an academic because of Brexit, even so, her conditions have stabilised again.

Name: Rudy
Age: 36
Nationality: Belgian

Rudy lives in the UK since 2003. He is married to a British woman since 2004. He worked on and off until 2011. The breaks in between were caused by the fact that his wife is disabled and needed care. He had to stop working in 2011 to become the full-time carer for his son, who is disabled as well. Rudy has been told that due to being a carer and not having five consecutive years of work history, he can’t get a permanent residence card and won’t be eligible for the new settled status either if the proposed makes no provisions for people like him.

Name: Anita
Age: 43
Nationality: Portuguese

Anita arrived in the UK in October 2009. She started working in a call centre in Edinburgh as a Portuguese language assistant. In April 2011 she moved to Sunderland due to personal circumstances. She worked in Newcastle for well over a year, until her British husband and Anita were involved in a very serious car accident.

Anita’s husband got injured and his health is deteriorating since then, he’s a wheelchair user. Anita had to stop working to look after him due to health complications. She is now a carer and receives carers allowance. This means she doesn’t qualify for a permanent residence card. She is also caring for her father-in-law. Both have no other immediate family, her father-in-law has dementia. She is worried that she has to restart her life in Portugal at 43 with a severely disabled husband if she can’t secure her status in the UK. In this case, she would have to leave his father-in-law behind.

Name: Eline (not her real name)
Age: 32
Nationality: Dutch

Eline worked a few years before she became a stay at home mum. Two years ago her British husband became ill. Before he worked for up to 60 hours a week. After her husband got ill, Eline became the carer for him. Eline has never applied for carers allowance, even so, her husband gets “Personal independence payments” (PIP) and “Employment and support allowance” (ESA) as he is not well enough to return to work yet.

The family also gets housing benefits since the husband can’t work anymore. This means even if Comprehensive Sickness Insurance is not required for self-sufficient people under the new proposed “settled status”, Eline can’t claim that she was self-sufficient as the family relies on benefits.

Name: Mari
Age: 33
Nationality: Estonian

Mari is the carer for her disabled son who has autism for four years. He only speaks English. So going back to her home country is not an option for her. She gets carers allowance since 2014 and is therefore not eligible to get a permanent residence card as she isn’t considered as “working”.

Name: Luisa
Age: 54
Nationality: Portuguese

Luisa came to the UK when she was a child. After school, she became the full-time carer for her younger sister, who had a profound form of Down’s Syndrome with multiple learning disabilities. She cared for her and later also for her parents for decades. In 2013 her sister died suddenly caused by a tragic incident at a hospital. Luisa is still trying to come to terms with the sudden death of her sister. She is unable to work and was diagnosed with small nerve neuropathy, Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and she has severe mobility and mental health problems.

After the Brexit referendum, she started to worry about her status. She thought she would never be eligible for permanent residence. Luckily her mother kept her old passport from the 70s for sentimental reasons. She found an old stamp in it which gives her Indefinite Leave to Remain. Because she found the old stamp, she doesn’t have to apply for permanent residence and can use this stamp to prove her status in the future.