Humane levels of support for asylum-seeking families
In a recent case the German Constitutional Court ruled that the current benefits level paid to asylum seekers in Germany – approximately £175 per month (£6 per day) – was insufficient. The court said that amount did not meet the constitutional stipulation that everybody should be entitled to a ‘humane subsistence level’.
The court stated that this is a basic right that applies equally to German and foreign citizens. The court found that the amounts provided have not been comprehensibly calculated, nor did they meet the needs of individuals. The government was ordered to immediately increase levels of support to approximately £262 per month (£8 per day).
Although this case does not affect UK policy, it's interesting to see the German court’s interpretation of a ‘humane’ level of support for those seeking protection from violence and human rights abuses.
Support for children and families fleeing war and human rights abuses
In the UK, children and families fleeing danger from their home country receive significantly less than British families on mainstream benefits.
Our analysis earlier this year showed that in some cases children and families – who are not allowed to work – received just half of what those on income support get, pushing them into severe poverty.
Some children are surviving on just £5 per day and they are forced to live on this level of support in some cases for many years. According to Home Office data, 40% of those in receipt of support from the Home Office (known as ‘Section 4 support’) in April 2011 had been living in these conditions for over two years and 12% of cases had been on this support for four to six years.
Poverty’s effects on child development
Childhood is a time of rapid development. It’s a period of years when young people absorb, analyse and acquire extraordinary amounts of new information and develop new skills.
Research into poverty highlights the importance of the early years of a child’s life and the need for children to have the resources to grow and develop effectively.
This is why children have a range of rights related to their development, such as Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It states that every child has a right to a standard of living adequate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
This requires not merely that support levels meet children’s ‘essential living needs’ – i.e. that a child has food, shelter and clothes but a much broader response to ensure that all their developmental needs are met.
Ensuring that asylum support meets the needs of children
During an oral evidence session to the parliamentary education select committee, Immigration Minister Damian Green stated: 'The rights and interests of children are centrally embedded in what the UKBA does.'
We believe that current levels of asylum support need to be urgently uprated to make sure that children’s welfare is protected and that no child is left to languish in destitution. This could be done by enabling all children and families access to Section 95 rather than Section 4 support, to guarantee that children are not unfairly disadvantaged by their parents’ decisions and immigration status. This support should be at 100% of income support for all children under 18 and at least 70% for adults where accommodation is provided. Asylum support levels should also be adjusted annually to take into account the cost of living.
By Ilona Pinter, Policy Adviser
• Learn more about our policy work on destitution
• Read Ilona’s story ‘The plight of young refugees and migrants’, about our report ‘I don’t feel human: Experiences of destitution among young refugees and migrants’
• Read the full ‘I don’t feel human’ report