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RJ4ALL challenges funder over Brexit

RJ4ALL is pleased to present Third Sector’s coverage of this scandal:

Grant-maker facing legal action after withholding funds amid Brexit row

20 April 2022 by Russell Hargrave

A community interest company is taking legal action against a funder in a row over Brexit rules.

Restorative Justice 4 All is challenging the company Ecorys, which administers grants in partnership with the EU Commission.

The CIC secured a 12-month, €10,000 (£8,300) project grant from the EU Solidarity Corps programme, made via Ecorys, in late 2020, before the UK left the European Union.

But Ecorys is trying to claw back thousands of euros after raising questions about the role of European citizens who helped deliver the project, according to documents seen by Third Sector.

Ecorys has asked the charity for proof that “three EU nationals participating in your project” are resident in the UK, the documents show.

If the CIC does not provide this proof, the company said it would cut the grant by thousands of euros, the papers say.

Restorative Justice 4 All argued that this was not a condition of the grant when it was made. Its director said he was “disgusted” by the decision.

The CIC made a formal complaint to Ecorys in February, but the original decision was upheld.

In the months leading up to Britain’s departure from the EU in January 2021, the government asked EU citizens who had moved to the UK before Brexit to apply to a settled status scheme, so that they could prove their right of residence in the country.

Ecorys is arguing that the EU citizens who volunteered for the Restorative Justice 4 All project, which was completed after the UK left the EU, must prove settled status to show they have lived here legally throughout the project’s implementation, documents show.

Restorative Justice 4 All insisted that no such requirement was in place when the grant was agreed and said it did not intend to force its volunteers to apply to the scheme.

In correspondence with the CIC, Ecorys said rules published in 2020 show that all project volunteers must be “legally residing in one and the same participating country”.

The CIC said that evidence provided by the volunteers’ universities should be enough to satisfy the funder. Its legal case is being carried out pro bono.

Theo Gavrielides, the founder and director of Restorative Justice 4 All, said the project, called You Are Not Alone, was designed to help young people in south London who were “going through some really tough times” amid Covid-19 and the national lockdowns.

The project provided food and mental health support to people in the community, he said.

Gavrielides said: “We cannot tell you how shocked and indeed disgusted we were to receive Ecorys’ decision to cut €3,906 out of the €10,568 that they promised us. Not only had we spent this money, but we also paid out of our own pocket as they expected us to co-finance their support.

“Ecorys, the private company that the European Commission appointed as the UK national agency to manage their funds, claimed that three of our young people were not legally residents in the UK, and that this gave them the right to reduce the grant.

“All three young people were EU nationals at the time and did not need to have a visa. In fact, they continue to be legal residents here as they are all students. Although we provided copies of their passports and letters from their universities, Ecorys still rejected our appeal claiming that they need to get a settlement status.

“We cannot force these young people to apply for something that they do not need and which was not a condition at the time the grant was granted.”

Gavrielides said he considered it “our moral and indeed legal obligation” to challenge the decision, “not only for our young people but also for other organisations which may soon find themselves in the same position”.

Ecorys did not respond to Third Sector’s requests comment.

Article can be found here!

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