I accept my hon. Friend's point. I shall look at all the issues in the round shortly and I shall take cognisance of his comments.
New clause 11 aims to ensure that, following a final decision on their asylum claim, NASS-supported asylum seekers receive at least 28 days' notice—or, if their claim has been refused, 21 days' notice—of the termination of their NASS support. Again, I hope to give hon. Members some reassurance based on the work that I have initiated.
The difficulty perceived by hon. Members is that, legally speaking, the clock starts ticking when the decision letter arrives. Their point is that notification of the termination of NASS support follows the decision letter, so asylum seekers and refugees might not pick up from the letter the fact that the clock has started ticking, and some of the notice period will have been eroded by the time they receive the NASS 35 letter.
We have been working on this issue. Although I recognise that successful asylum seekers face considerable difficulties when leaving NASS support and entering the mainstream benefits system, I do not want to change the legislation so that the grace period commenced on receipt of the letter terminating NASS support, because that would simply elongate the process. Instead, we have concentrated on improving existing processes and working with the Department
for Work and Pensions to make more effective use of the existing statutory period. Let me say a little about what we have done and what stage we have reached.
When we analysed the issue, we found that the main hold-up in accessing mainstream benefit before NASS support runs out arises from the issuing of the national insurance number by DWP. We have conducted a feasibility study in partnership with the DWP and the Inland Revenue and we have developed a process, although we have not yet rolled it out universally because we have only just got the results. As part of that process, however, successful asylum applicants are given a national insurance number with their decision letter. In that way, we eradicate at a stroke the problem of people not understanding the situation until they get their NASS 35 letter.
Our study covered applicants who were interviewed Liverpool and was a considerable success. We are in the process of drawing up a plan to roll the process out through the whole system. I hope that the hon. Member for Winchester will understand that doing things that way and ensuring that people receive the necessary information and their national insurance number with their positive decision letter will give people the full benefit of the 28 days so that they can quickly take advantage of mainstream benefits and other provisions, be that jobseeker's allowance, the new deal or whatever.