Big Issue seller from Romania wins legal right to claim housing benefit
Mum of four already pockets £491 a week tax credits
Sofa so good ... Firuta Vasile wins landmark ruling to claim benefits in UK
A BIG Issue seller from Romania has won a landmark ruling allowing her to claim housing benefit in the UK.
Mum-of-four Firuta Vasile, 27, was initially refused the benefit because current rules say immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria cannot claim if they are jobless.
But a tribunal judge decided that Vasile, who sells the Big Issue in Bristol, is self-employed.
Now immigrants who sell the Big Issue stand to claim up to £20,000 a year in housing benefits after the ruling classed their work as a "proper job".
She already receives £491 a week in tax credits and other benefits and is set to get £50 a week for housing.
MigrationWatch UK said: "It's an open invitation for beggars from Eastern Europe to come here."
Single mum Vasile - whose children are aged 11, seven, six and two - works between 16 and 24 hours each week, spread over up to five days.
Speaking through an interpreter, Vasile said she came to the UK in 2007 to look for work, but could only find a post at the Big Issue in Bristol.
The big issue ... Firuta Vasile claims hundreds a week in benefits
She said: "I can keep half of the money I take and I usually make around £100 per week.
"This isn't enough to meet all my family's needs so I asked the council for housing benefit to help with my rent. My claim was turned down.
"I was told that because I am Romanian I could not get benefits unless I have a job or I am in self-employment. They said work for The Big Issue didn't count.
"I got legal support and was helped with an appeal. My adviser got lots of evidence that selling The Big Issue really is self-employment.
"I am really pleased if this decision means that people from countries like Romania and Bulgaria who come to the UK to work hard are not treated unfairly."
Under the ruling, Big Issue- selling immigrants could claim up to £400 a week or £20,800 a year if they are living in a four bedroomed house, depending on where and with whom they live.
Bristol City Council had appealed the decision and the case was taken to an upper tribunal in London last year.
Judge Mark Rowland released his written judgement - in her favour – on January 10 and the council said it will not appeal again.
Romanian and Bulgarian nationals are unable to enter into general employment due to Regulation 2 of the Accession (Immigration and Work Regulations) Act 2004.
This is because their countries were late entrants to the EU but their rights will be brought into line with other European member states in two years' time.
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