21 November 2014
The British Red Cross is celebrating some major breakthroughs in parliament – which will help the vulnerable people we support.
This week, we helped to shape important policy around first aid and asylum, following two key debates at the House of Lords.
Payment card problems
Lord Roberts of Llandudno led yesterday’s debate on the Azure card.
A refused asylum seeker receives this card, instead of cash, if they are destitute and unable – though willing – to return to their home country. Their card is pre-loaded with £35.39 a week, which can only be spent in certain shops.
Lord Roberts used our report on the Azure card to raise some concerns.
‘Unnecessary suffering’ says Lord
Our report revealed many problems with the Azure card – from failing to work at the checkout to the fact that it cannot pay for public transport.
Using our evidence, Lord Roberts said: “The Azure card and Section 4 support do not allow asylum seekers to meet their basic needs and live in dignity. It creates unnecessary suffering for people who are already in desperate situations.”
Improving the card
Following the debate, the government minister, Baroness Williams of Trafford, agreed that people should be able to use the Azure card on public transport. She also pledged to remove the weekly rollover limit of £5, after our report showed that it prevents people saving for pricier items, such as shoes.
The government said they would consider giving further information about the terms and conditions of the card – and extending the range of outlets that accept it.
First aid confidence
Earlier this week, we also spoke out on a new bill with major implications for first aid.
The bill (in England and Wales) will legally protect those who help others in an emergency. This supports our aim that people feel more confident about helping others, rather than worry about ‘getting it wrong’.
What makes a hero?
Along with St John Ambulance, we submitted a joint briefing earlier this month, to change some of the wording in this Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism bill.
A clause in the bill said that people who help in an emergency, without regard for their own safety, should be seen as heroic. However, our first aid training does not encourage people to put themselves in danger.
After some debate in the House of Lords, this wording is now set to change – and we hope to carry on working with officials on the legislation.
Still pushing for change
Jonathan Ellis, head of policy, research and advocacy at the Red Cross, said: “There have been some really positive developments in Parliament this week.
“However, we will continue to push for the abolition of the Azure card, which causes such needless suffering – and to promote the importance of learning first aid.”