Call for NHS fees to be scrapped for all migrant workers
PUBLISHED: 14:31 30 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:33 30 September 2020
Migrants working in Ipswich say they are struggling to make ends meet as they continue paying hundreds of pounds in NHS fees - despite paying taxes.
Families from outside the European Economic Area who are living in the UK must pay the annual Immigration Health Surcharge to access NHS care - currently set at £400 per person, but rising to £624 in October.
Workers such as Enala Maturure say it is unfair on those who have been paying tax and National Insurance for years and are struggling to make ends meet.
The 38-year-old support worker moved to the UK from Zimbabwe and has four children, all born here. However, she has to pay charges for each of them as they were denied British citizenship - meaning the health surcharge has cost her thousands over the years.
“People from Africa are struggling,” Ms Maturure said. “People have to borrow money off friends, family, banks and even loan sharks just to scrape enough together to pay.
“Sometimes I just break down from the stress of it, I know friends who have panic attacks and suffer when it’s time to reapply for their vias because they don’t know how they will get the money.
“It is setting families up for failure and perpetuating a cycle of debt – it feels like the UK government has a knee on my neck and I feel it every day.”
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Earlier this year the government announced the charge would be waived for NHS workers as they battled through the Covid-19 pandemic, now there are calls for it to be scrapped completely.
Funmi Akiriboya is the founder of the BME Suffolk Support Group said: “The government has admitted it is not fair to charge NHS workers so why not us? A lot of us are key workers too.
“The fee has more than doubled since they started it in 2015 and it is punishing families unfairly.”
Miss Akinriboya has three children and is unable to buy a house as she cannot save up for a mortgage deposit.
She says the charges are disproportionately affecting black families who have moved to the UK from Commonwealth countries and former colonies.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The Immigration Health Surcharge provides comprehensive access to NHS services regardless of the amount of care needed during a person’s time in the UK, and includes treatment for pre-existing conditions.
“Income from the surcharge goes directly into the NHS and it has raised approximately £1.5 billion since its introduction.”
The BME Suffolk Support Group has set up a petition to have the charge removed named ‘Scrap immigration NHS surcharge for non-EU migrants workers and their dependents’ whichcan be signed here.
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