UK Politics

Migrant welfare curbs extended to child benefits

UK border controls at Heathrow Airport Image copyright PA
Image caption Ministers have introduced a series of measures to restrict access to benefits for migrants from the EU

Rules limiting out-of-work benefits for migrants from EU countries will be extended to child welfare payments, the government has announced.

Jobseekers will need to live in the UK for three months to claim child benefit and child tax credit, starting in July.

There is already a three-month wait before migrants can claim jobseeker's allowance. Ministers say the move shows the system is not open to abuse.

Labour have accused the government of "playing catch-up" on migrant benefits.

'Primarily to claim'

Ministers also announced that new claimants eligible for jobseeker's allowance would no longer have routine access to interpretation services.

And from the end of this month their spoken English will be tested, and they will be expected to improve if it affects their search for work.

The government said it wanted a "credible, fair and transparent system that that helps people move within the EU to work and supports migrants and non-migrants alike".

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will not be a "soft touch" for those claiming benefits.

Ms Morgan, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: "The government is building a system that is fair and consistent, one that supports those who want to work hard.

"These changes send a strong message that our welfare system is not open to abuse and will deter those who think that they can move to the UK primarily to claim benefits.

"Making work pay is part of our long-term plan to ensure that Britain's growing economy and dynamic jobs market deliver for those who work hard and play by the rules."

Public services

Claimants with poor spoken English will need to take part in local training, and be expected to improve within six months.

The routine use of interpreting services will continue for claimants judged to be vulnerable and in need of support.

Ministers have introduced a series of measures to restrict access to benefits for migrants from other European countries.

These include a three-month wait before they can claim jobseeker's allowance and a minimum earnings threshold before they can access a range of benefits.

Ministers argue that the long standing principle that citizens of EU countries should be allowed to live and work in other member states does not amount to an automatic right to claim benefits abroad.

They say it has become too easy for migrants from the other 27 EU member states to access public services in the UK, such as the welfare state and the health service.

But a Labour Party spokesman said the government was "playing catch-up" as Labour had put forward measures last year "to ensure people are coming to the UK to contribute, not just to claim benefits".

Restrictions on the right of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to live and work in the UK were lifted on 1 January.

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