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Submission to the 2021 Home Office review of asylum support rates

Kamena Dorling
Zoe Dexter

This briefing looks at the basic needs provided for by asylum support payments, with reference to the Home Office’s ‘Report on the allowances paid to asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers: 2020’, and most pressing issues that have been identified by the Helen Bamber Foundation (HBF) in relation to our clients.

Many of our clients receive asylum support, including under Section 95, Section 98 and Section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The low asylum support rates affect them in myriad ways, permeating much of their life in the UK and acting to the detriment of their emotional, material and physical wellbeing.

In our collective clinical experience at HBF, the low rates of financial support provided to our clients can cause them considerable distress and add to their low self-esteem and mental health problems. This can significantly impede their engagement with and progress in therapy.

HBF believes that the Home Office’s existing methodology for assessing the levels at which to set asylum support needs to change because it appears to make no allowances for those in the asylum system with additional mental or physical health needs. It also includes assumptions about the availability of additional funding and support that is simply not available in practice.  

We believe asylum support rates should be raised to more realistically reflect the needs of asylum seekers. Our recommendations include:

  • An alternative approach to assessing appropriate levels of support should be taken, with the starting point that it is essential to assess what rate would be necessary for  an acceptable standard of living, not just what must be covered as a bare minimum. In the interim, the rate of asylum support should be raised to at least 70% of mainstream benefits. 
  • Travel and communication should be classified as essential needs – having access to these services is crucial to people’s well-being, to their ability to stay in contact with their support networks, doctors and legal representatives, to progressing their asylum claims, and to them or their children continuing their education
  • The assessment used for the rates review should look at what support is required to enable people to maintain interpersonal relationships and a minimum level of participation in social, cultural and religious life.