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Drastic cuts to asylum support will plunge families deeper into poverty, warn charities

10 August 2015

Mother and child at the Teesside project

The Home Office’s decision to slash vital support for families and single parents by almost a third has been condemned by the UK’s refugee sector.

From today (10 August), families seeking safety in the UK will have their weekly support for each child cut by £16.

This reduction will make it near-impossible for families to meet their essential living needs, according to the British Red Cross, Children’s Society, Refugee Action and Refugee Council.

Norman McKinley, managing director of the British Red Cross, said: “These cruel cuts will plunge families into further poverty, making it agonisingly tough for parents to feed their children, and practically impossible to buy clothes and other essential items.”

No money for clothes

Asylum seekers have fled war, torture and other atrocities – and arrive in the UK with almost nothing at all. They are unable to work while their claims are being processed, which often take years.

These families have no option but to rely on government support. An asylum seeker with a child will now receive £73.90 a week, rather than £96.90. This amounts to only half the support a single parent gets in the UK.

Research by Refugee Action found that nearly 40 per cent of asylum seekers already struggle to feed themselves and their children, while 88 per cent said they did not have enough money to buy clothes.

Florence, a refugee from Zimbabwe, recalls: “When I arrived in the UK, things were incredibly hard… During that time, I was really struggling; I remember once surviving for a week on a single loaf of bread.”

‘Unimaginable horrors’

“These cuts will make life even tougher for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action.

“Coupled with recent government proposals to exclude some families from support altogether, it's clear that the government is using the situation in Calais as cover for increasing poverty and suffering among families seeking safety from persecution.”

Refugee Council head of advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle added: “While MPs are to be awarded a significant pay rise, the government has simultaneously pulled the rug from underneath vulnerable children and families who have fled unimaginable horrors.

“It’s utterly abhorrent that the government has chosen to put people’s health and well-being at risk by making them even poorer.”

Children at risk

There are also strong concerns that children will be most at risk from these cuts in support.

Peter Grigg, director of external affairs at The Children’s Society, said: “The government’s decision to cut financial support for families fleeing war, violence and persecution will cause severe hardship to thousands of children in the UK.

“We know from the families we work with that many are already struggling to provide their children with the basics they need to survive. They are wholly dependent on this support, as they are not allowed to work.

“No child fleeing persecution should be forced into poverty and destitution.”

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