A GERMAN-born Pembrokeshire school support worker has lent her voice to a national campaign to extend the deadline for EU nationals to apply for settled status in the UK.

Public services union, Unison Cymru Wales, launched a campaign to encourage the UK government to extend its deadline for applications to the Settled Status scheme last week.

Manuela Hughes, who works as a school support worker in Pembrokeshire said that EU nationals employed in Welsh public services had played an essential role during the coronavirus pandemic.

"In schools, NHS, the care sector and elsewhere, we have really put our shoulder to the wheel during the pandemic and helped keep Wales running," she said.

"Our livelihoods and families are here. We must be allowed more time to apply for settled status to which we're entitled, and that's why we are calling on MPs to extend the deadline."

Chiara Caserotti, an Italian-born key worker who managed to make her application just before the pandemic hit, added:

"I would have struggled to make headspace for an application during the pandemic.

"For many EU key workers, their priority has been ensuring the vital services they are responsible for do not stop because of Covid. Now they face the real possibility of not being able to make an application for settled status in time."

EU nationals who successfully apply to the Settlement Scheme will be able to continue living and working in the UK after June 30 2021.

However, Unison says that Covid-19 has prevented many EU nationals from applying for Settled Status, not least because of the closure of libraries, with the crucial facilities they offer.

It is calling on the Westminster government to extend the deadline for applications to the scheme, past the current deadline of June 2021.

This would allow EU nationals already living in Wales, to continue to work here.

Unison has repeatedly underlined the contribution of foreign nationals working in Welsh public services.

The trade union is now asking its 100,000 members in Wales to write to their MP using its new campaign website and request the deadline for applications be extended.

"During Covid-19, a number of the measures put in place to support workers with the settled status application process were withdrawn, some, including access to scanners and computers in public libraries, continue to be inaccessible to EU workers," said Bethan Thomas Unison Cymru/Wales regional manager.

"Many of those who have yet to apply for settled status will have limited or no access to the wholly online application system or will experience significant financial hardship doing so.

"These workers have been at the heart of the response to Covid-19 and deserve to have their rights protected."

To find out more about the campaign and email your MP, visit action.unison.org.uk.