The gap between asylum support and mainstream benefit rates is leaving thousands of children in severe poverty, new analysis from The Children’s Society shows.
The gap between asylum support and mainstream benefit rates is leaving thousands of children in severe poverty, new analysis (pdf) from The Children’s Society shows.
Many families cannot even afford the basics, including clothing and powdered milk or nappies for their babies.
Asylum seeking families with children are often entitled to receive asylum support under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (pdf), until their claim is decided, and they are either granted leave to remain, or if they are refused asylum, until they leave the United Kingdom.
Single adults or couples without children will lose their Section 95 support and accommodation if their claim is refused. And if an adult has a child after their asylum claim is refused they are not entitled to Section 95 support.
These families, however, may be able to access Section 4 support under the Act, which is meant to provide short-term voucher-based support to adults who are destitute, if they meet specific strict requirements – if they are taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK, if there is no viable route of return or if there is a physical or medical reason why they cannot travel.
However, at £35.39 per person, Section 4 support rates are even lower than those provided under Section 95.
Trapped in severe poverty
Section 95 support for a couple with a four-year-old child is just 67% of that received by an equivalent family on income support, and around half of what they would need to escape poverty; Section 4 assistance is considerably lower.
In some cases, children and families on asylum support would need as nearly three times more than they receive in order to be pulled out of poverty.
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Graph 1 shows income support, asylum support under Section 95 and Section 4 support, for a couple with one child aged four, compared to poverty thresholds – the poverty threshold (after housing costs) and the severe poverty threshold.
What needs to be done?
The government in its current review of asylum support needs to take key steps to bring asylum support in line with income support in order to ensure families seeking asylum are not left in severe poverty; specifically, it needs to:
Provide asylum seekers affected by disabilities with some level of additional support
Families receiving income support receive additional help for disability. However, even though many asylum seeking families face ill health and disabilities which may incur considerable additional living costs, they receive no additional assistance through Section 95.
Treat 16 and 17-year-olds as children
Additional support for asylum seeking children stops when they reach 16, even though they would normally be treated as dependent children under the mainstream benefits system and are recognised as children under international law.
Also, the government has indicated the standard age of entitlement for the new Universal Credit will be 18 rather than 16.
All children in the asylum system should be provided support under Section 95
Under the current guidelines, children born after their family is denied asylum receive the significantly lower support provided under Section 4 until they are able to return to their home country.
Despite being intended as short term support, 40 per cent of those receiving it in April 2011 had been living on it for more than two years.
Children of asylum seekers are no less deserving and have the same needs as all children in the UK. It is vital the government takes into account children’s needs and its commitment to tackling child poverty for all children by ensuring asylum support does not put children’s health and well being at risk.