Posted: 16 March 2015

10,000 children seeking safety from war and persecution are being pushed into poverty

When the Chancellor delivers his budget on Wednesday he will talk about decisions relating to hundreds of billions of pounds. However even small changes to these astronomical amounts could have a big impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in society.

Our experience of helping children and families has shown us that some of the children most in need of extra help are those who have come to this country seeking asylum, often arriving destitute having fled their homes in fear.

Yet since 2011, the amount families on asylum support receive has been frozen, which represents a cut in real terms of 7.5%

Far less than mainstream benefits

Families seeking asylum are almost never permitted to work, so have to look after their families on this small amount of government support. This pushes more than 10,000 children seeking safety from war and persecution into poverty.

In some cases, families receive only half of what they would be entitled to in the mainstream benefits system. We estimate that it would only cost £8 million to raise the support for these families to a level where it would have been if the rates had not been frozen in 2011.

As this graph shows some families are living well below the severe poverty threshold.

Asylum seeking families facing poverty

Levels of poverty experienced by asylum seeking families was clearly highlighted in a parliamentary inquiry into asylum support that we supported in 2012.

The inquiry found that children weren't able to regularly eat nutritious food or dress warmly in the winter seriously affecting their health, well-being and development. This is despite a statutory duty that the Home Office’s has under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to safeguard and promote children’s welfare.

Low levels of support hurt families

Esma, a single, asylum-seeking mother with one son, explained her predicament. She’s trying to save and plan for her family’s future but said: ’I try to keep £1 every week, but then have to use it because it’s not enough money.’

In addition, financial support for 16- and 17-year-olds seeking asylum with their families is considerably lower than for children under 16, even though they are typically in full-time education. This is also despite the fact that they are considered children in the mainstream benefits system as well as under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

What will help? 

We are calling for the Government to apply a cost of living increase to asylum support rates. For families, that reflects at least 70% of what other families on benefits are able to claim in the UK. We are also are calling for these rates to be increased in line with annual inflation.

This would help to ensure that these families are better able to meet the costs of living and education, helping them to participate in society. It is vital that all children seeking safety in the UK can have a decent start to life, no matter who their parents are or where they were born.

There are approximately 6,000 families with children receiving asylum support. We calculate that bringing the support these families receive up to 70% of mainstream benefits would provide approximately an extra £25 a week per family, which would only cost around £8 million.

This is less than 0.1% of the Home Office’s total budget and would make a massive difference to help prevent these children living in poverty.

By Lucy Gregg - Policy team