Alketa Hystuma holds a BA (Hons) in Law and Sociology with extensive and transferable (advice & advocacy) cross industry experience in the charity sector. She is an experienced caseworker and specialist on welfare benefits.
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The Shpresa Programme works with Albanian nationals in the UK who have mainly migrated from Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. Their dual nationalities make them EU citizens.
The 23rd of June 2016 marked a seismic change for a country, which for 47 years was a member state of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Communities (EC). Assisting with the completion of online applications has been challenging since the Brexit process as many service users have difficulties with the language or have no English skills. Others have difficulties using computers and online services, like not understand the confirmation emails or calls they receive to provide further evidences as part of their EUSS applications. Many of the people we work with have completed wrong applications, equally many are not aware of their rights on public funds including housing and homelessness assistance. A general problem is that many do not yet fully understand what Brexit means and why having a Settled or Pre-Settled status is important in protect their future immigration status, as well as their rights and entitlements to family reunions, work, benefits, and access to the NHS.
Since COVID-19 we witnessed a rise of applications for universal credit. We’ve noticed indirect discrimination when an EU citizen has only arrived to the UK a few months ago and is working a limited number of hours per week. Most of the claims made resulted in refusals, not once, but 2-3 times. We have previously requested reviews and have appealed decisions to highlight that the EU citizens have the same rights as a British passport holder or someone with refugee status.
Our other immense concern is for groups or people who are isolated and have no contact with us or any other organisations who promote and do campaign work around the EU Settlement Scheme. If vulnerable members of our community fail to apply before June 30 2021 their immigration status will inevitably be compromised, no matter how long they have resided in the UK.
Our partnership with New Europeans UK started in September last year. Since then, we have jointly delivered more than 5 events and information sessions tailored for the Albanian community. New Europeans UK have advised and trained our staff, as well as a cohort of our Albanian speaking volunteers. We have found a valuable partner that is keen to hear the challenges our service users face and offer free professional advice.
It has been a highlight of Shpresa’s activity, to work intensively with the many EU citizens part of the Albanian community in the UK and raise awareness of their rights in the UK during and after Brexit. With the continuous support from New Europeans UK, the Shpresa Programme has campaigned extensively through social media, our digital work and information sessions, as well through our advocacy “Be the change” project. This will ensure effective support continues to reach our community, so that no EU citizen gets left behind. We will continue to assist anyone who needs help to integrate and become self-sufficient once they chose to make the UK their home.
020 7511 1586