A group of cross-party MPs and peers have joined forces today to launch an inquiry into the way the asylum support system meets the needs of children and young people.
The panel, led by former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather MP, will explore how children and young people are supported under the Home Office system for asylum seekers.
The inquiry, supported by The Children’s Society, will take evidence from a range of stakeholders to build a clearer picture of whether the support is adequate to protect these children and young people’s welfare, in line with the government’s obligations.
There has been no formal review of the asylum support system and whether their needs are being met since 2009, when a statutory duty on the Home Secretary to safeguard and promote children’s welfare came into force.
Parliamentary questions on asylum support rates have revealed that asylum support has fallen below intended levels.
Sarah Teather MP said: 'I am concerned that currently many thousands of children and young people grow up in the asylum system and we know that severe poverty can have a detrimental effect on health, education and development. The panel will look at the asylum support system through the eyes of children and hear about their experiences.'
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'Too often we hear from children about the harsh reality they are facing. Many are struggling to survive, often on just half of what is provided under standard benefits. Some families can’t even afford the basics like food, clothing and nappies. This inquiry is vital to shine a spotlight on the challenges these children face.'
The panel would like to hear from children, young people and families with experiences of the asylum support system, as well as from other agencies, experts and organisations working in this area.
The deadline for receiving written evidence is Friday 7 December 2012. Oral evidence sessions are being held at the House of Commons on Tuesday 20 and 27 November 2012 from 10am to 12pm. Please call Nadine Ibbetson on 020 7841 4400 (ext 3016) or email for further information. A report will be published early next year.
For more information, please call Beth Herzfeld, Senior Media Officer in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422/ 07775 812 357 or email. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.
Notes to editors
- According to Home Office data in 2011, 20,894 individuals were in receipt of Section 95 support, however, a breakdown of age was not available. Of these, 17,049 were members of family groups and 3,845 were single adults. In April 2011, 786 children were in receipt of Section 4 support.
- The Children’s Society analysis in April 2012 estimated that around 10,000 children are supported under asylum support. The levels of support provided to families are typically much lower than those provided through the mainstream benefits system. In some cases children and families received around half of what a family would be entitled to receive under Income Support. Rates of support are well below what would be required to escape poverty. There are particularly stark differences for children on Section 4 support, children aged 16 and 17, and those with disabilities.
- The panel chaired by former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather MP comprises Neil Carmichael MP, Caroline Dinenage MP, Nic Dakin MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Lord Avebury, Baroness Lister, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds John Packer, Nadine Finch, Children’s Rights Barrister, Garden Court Chambers and Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society.
- The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.
2 Oral questions on asylum seekers and children, House of Lords. 23 May 2012 : Column 785.