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Inadequate UK asylum support pushing children into poverty, says The Children’s Society

Time running out for government to re-assess support rates for asylum seekers

Since financial support for families seeking asylum in the UK has been frozen since April 2011, asylum seekers have faced a 7.5% cut in real terms as a result of rising costs for food, clothing, and other basic necessities over the past three years, research by The Children's Society shows.

In April, in R (Refugee Action) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 1033 (Admin) the High Court ruled that the Home Secretary acted unlawfully when deciding levels of support. In that case charity Refugee Action challenged the Home Secretary on the grounds that she had acted irrationally over whether asylum support meets essential living needs and secures a dignified standard of living. For single adult asylum seekers whose asylum claims have not been finally determined, the level of financial support is as little as £5.23 a day. The government has until 9 August to re-assess rates so that they meet asylum-seeking families' essential living needs.

Matthew Reed, The Children's Society's Chief Executive, said:

"The UK is pushing children seeking safety from violence and persecution into poverty. Instead of giving them and their families the help they need, they are being forced to live on shockingly low-levels of support.

"Many are unable even to afford the most basic necessities for their children. The government has a chance to change this and make sure that all refugee children have what they need for a decent start in life. It is critical that the government does not miss this opportunity."

The Children's Society says that financial support for families seeking protection in the UK can be as little as 50% less than that given to those on mainstream benefits, and most are not allowed to work. Financial support for 16 and 17-year-olds seeking asylum with their families is particularly low at £13.16 a week less than for children under-16. The charity believes that government needs to make sure that 16 and 17-year-olds are treated as children within the asylum support system in the same way as all other children under 18.

The Children's Society is calling on the government to increase asylum support rates to at least 70% of mainstream benefits, and increase them annually in line with inflation.