accessibility & help

Audrey and Azure cards: “Less than human”

Audrey, an asylum seeker, has lived on the Azure card for a few years now – and says she faces problems every day. Here’s her story…

“Sometimes checkout operators do not recognise the Azure card, so the manager is called. Sometimes he or she doesn’t recognise it either. Sometimes I am required to produce ID, although it states on the back of the card that it is not needed. 

As they discuss these issues, a queue forms behind me at the checkout. I become very embarrassed and feel that other customers see me as a ‘benefit cheat’.

My name is Audrey and I am 57 years old. I came from Zimbabwe, 13 years ago. I have been on an Azure card since 2009.

The card gives me £36 pounds a week, which I have to use within seven days. No cash can be taken in change. Up to £5 can be retained on the card, as long as I spend it within the seven-day limit. 

Travel is a problem

I had a severe stroke in 2010 that has left me quite disabled, so getting around is a problem. Swimming was recommended to me as a form of strengthening exercise, but the Azure card cannot be used on buses or for entry to swimming pools or gyms.

There are some items you cannot buy on the Azure card, but sometimes a checkout operator will say something else can’t be bought. For example, I was told I couldn’t buy a saucepan on one occasion.

Going hungry

Occasionally the swipe mechanism at the till refuses my card, and I have had to leave all my food there. The money is reimbursed within two or three days, but I am short of food in the meantime.

Some shops give receipts for purchases made, but others do not. If it is necessary to take back a product for any reason, I have no evidence of purchase.

This Azure card makes me feel less than human. I feel like I am seen as a beggar. I am humiliated each time I use it. Why can’t I be trusted with £36 cash?"

All names have been changed. 


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