19 Nov 2012

A group of cross-party MPs and peers will be holding an evidence session on Tuesday (20 November) looking at whether the asylum support system meets the needs of children and young people.

Experts, academics and families are presenting their evidence to a panel led by former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather MP, who will examine how children and families are supported under the Home Office system for asylum seekers. The panel, assisted by The Children’s Society, will find out what support is provided for children, whether this system promotes their welfare and best interests and if there are gaps, the panel will propose solutions.

There has been no formal review of the asylum support system and whether children and young people’s needs have been met since 2009, when a statutory duty[1] on the Home Secretary to safeguard and promote children’s welfare came into force.

Former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: “I have met hundreds of families who have fled terrible violence and persecution, who have been to hell and back and are desperate to make a better life for their children. But for many, the initial relief of arriving here safely is overshadowed by the isolation and poverty they experience within the asylum support system. I have launched this inquiry, together with cross-party MPs and peers and with help from The Children’s Society, to gather evidence and a greater understanding of how the system we have currently supports children and families.”

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “This evidence session is vital in understanding how children are affected. Through our work we see every day how families are struggling to survive, to provide their children with even the very basics. We are grateful to Sarah Teather for launching this inquiry to build a clearer picture of the support system and to make sure that every child has a decent start in life.”

The panel will hear from young people and families with experiences of the asylum support system, as well as from frontline agencies, experts and others 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. The report will be published early next year.

Ends

Media enquiries

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

[1] Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 places a duty on the Home Secretary to make arrangements for ensuring that immigration, asylum, nationality and customs functions are discharged in a way that safeguards and promotes the welfare of children.

• Witnesses will include Mike Kaye, Advocacy Manager (Still Human, Still Here), Professor Heaven Crawley, Swansea University, Dr Jenny Phillimore, University of Birmingham, Hugo Tristram, British Red Cross.  The evidence session will also hear from families who have experienced the system first hand. 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.

• 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 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.