Story By: Georgina Jadikovska, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
Thousands of Brits who were waiting for benefit cheques or going to use local health services have found they have been cancelled after bungling Austrian officials validated an old version of the breakfast agreement.
There currently 10,000 Brits living as permanent residents in Austria and hundreds of them took to social media platforms to share their experience about suddenly finding that their benefits ranging from unemployment through to child benefits or health insurance had been cancelled.
They were told that only those that have managed to sign a permanent residence contract would be entitled to the benefits moving forward, and if it was not done by March it would be cancelled completely.
The loss of the benefits plunge many into hardship and also the health insurance, for example, one Brit mum turned up at the hospital with a sick child to be told that she was no longer in the system, and their child was not insured.
Another British mother on a social media from discussing the problem wrote: “I am currently on maternity leave and receiving childcare allowance from the Health Insurance company. I received a letter from them asking for evidence for my visa. I sent them our registration certificate and they have replied that it is no longer valid. They have suspended my income”.
Another wrote: “The same problem arises if you need home care or a place in a care home for a UK citizen elderly and ill. The Vienna Social Fund needs the Art. 50 Card and if you don’t have one, the application will be rejected.”
Many had already applied for the new Article 50 (A50) EUV Card but there are huge waiting lists of sometimes months with many complaining that they could not manage that long without access to the services that they previously had.
One British woman from Innsbruck, in Tyrol, was told there were no available appointments even to apply for the A50 Card without the time needed to process the material after that, so they may be without funds until April or May.
The reason for the payment suspension is the use of an outdated version of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement used by the ministries, that contains last year’s deadline.
Under the final Brexit deal Brits who were previously legally residing in Austria continued to enjoy all EU citizenship rights until the end of the year but because they had an updated version of the contract which does not mention this clause that was introduced later, the Federal Office of Public Health and the Public Employment Service of Austria canceled all benefits for British citizens until they provide their new resident permits.
The end result is that UK citizens in Austria were left without essential life benefits such as childcare, unemployment benefits and health insurance.
Followers of a private forum on Facebook consisting of mainly UK citizens had many complaints on the matter.
Many of the people affected by the situation received letters stating that their requests and applications are not complete and in case they are unable to provide the A50 Card in four weeks, their appeals would be dismissed. Regardless having sent their registration certificates as proof of their residence, the facilities wouldn’t accept them.
The British Embassy has confirmed that the suspension of benefit payments goes against the Withdrawal Agreement.
British Ambassador to Austria Leigh Turner: “We are aware of reports of UK nationals in Austria being informed that they no longer receive benefits until they have the Article 50 card. This is not in line with commitments made in the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We have reached out to the Austrian government for clarification and the government has confirmed that until 31 December 2021 access to benefits is not dependent on having applied for or received the Article 50 card’ adds the Ambassador.
In the meantime, the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs has been informing relevant institutions about the Brexit issue.
As of 1st January, 2022 UK nationals will need an A50 card to have the same access to Austrian benefits as EU nationals.
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