The Home Office has today announced that asylum support rates will be frozen for the upcoming year. This comes despite a recent cross-party Parliamentary inquiry finding that current rates of support are forcing some families to live on less than £5 per person each day.
The announcement means that by April next year support rates will have been unchanged for three years - despite some asylum applicants already only receiving barely half of the equivalent level of support from mainstream benefits – and they are not allowed to work.
The evidence submitted to the Parliamentary inquiry, which was supported by The Children’s Society, made it clear that the failure to provide adequate support was leaving many without the means to meet their basic living needs. Those on the lowest rate of support only receive their allowance on a card. This means they get no cash, effectively leaving them stranded - unable even to take the bus to the doctor's or their children to school.
The inquiry, which published its findings in January this year, received evidence in writing and in person from around 200 individuals and organisations, including local authorities, academics, from those working on the front line with asylum seekers, young people and their families who have experienced the support system personally.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Sarah Teather MP, who chaired the inquiry, said:
“This is extremely disappointing news and will leave many vulnerable individuals and families who are fleeing persecution and war without the support they need. It is a cowardly, politically motivated decision that has completely ignored the growing evidence that clearly shows current support rates are forcing people into poverty.
“During the course of the parliamentary inquiry, the panel heard from people who had direct experience living on these meagre levels of support and it was clear how hard their lives were being made by the government. As a country we have a long and proud history of providing sanctuary to those who seek it – we do ourselves a great disservice not living up to this reputation.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, added:
“Thousands of children and families are being literally left destitute because the system is failing them. This decision to not increase support rates can only make matters worse. Parents are being forced to go without food so that they can buy basic items for their family, and even then they struggle to provide healthy food, shoes and school uniforms for their children.
“Children and families are being made to live in appalling conditions that are not fit by anyone’s standards. Any child, no matter who they are of where they are from, must be entitled to a basic and reasonable level of support.”
For more information, please call Beth Herzfeld in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422, 07775 812 357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.
Notes to editors:
- The Home Office made the announcement in a written statement to Parliament on 6 June 2013
- The Parliamentary Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children and Young People published its report in January 2013. The full report can be read online at: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/parliamentary-inquiry-asylum-support-children
- Until 2009, asylum support rates were set at 70% of income support with the justification that asylum seekers in accommodation no longer had to pay utility bills. Since 2009, the Home Office has set asylum rates independently of income support. The rates have not been increased since April 2011.