Schedule 6 - Support for certain categories of migrant

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 10:30 am, 10th November 2015

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that clarification, because he had not given that clarity initially and it is important to understand the different regimes that operate for those  with refugee status and for someone who has come here and claimed asylum. It is helpful that he explained his intent. That is why I said what I did about how asylum support rates are intended to operate for all nationalities of people claiming asylum in this country.

I come on to the second point about the amount of cash, having already indicated to the Committee all the other support mechanisms provided to those seeking asylum fairly and appropriately. The cash amount is provided with reference to a specific legal test set out in section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The allowance is there to cover what is described as “essential living needs”.

The Home Office reviews the level of the cash allowance each year but the way that review is conducted changed in 2014. Following a judicial review, the Home Office put in place a new assessment methodology designed to give full effect to the findings of and the valuable guidance given by the court. It is important to understand how the rates are set in the context of what the court said and the guidance that it provided. First, a careful assessment is made to identify all needs that are essential and not covered through some other part of the package.

The needs identified in this way are: sufficient food to eat healthily, adequate clothing, provision to cover toiletries, household cleaning items and non-prescription medicines, sufficient provision for travel and communications for everyday purposes and to maintain interpersonal relationships and a minimum level of participation in social, cultural and interpersonal relationships. That is a term of art and an essential need identified by the court. Having identified all these particular needs, an assessment is made of how much money is required to meet each of them. This is done through a mixture of market research into the cost of the particular items and analysis of Office for National Statistics data about expenditure on the items by people in the lowest 10% income group of the UK population. This approach resulted in the allowance for a single asylum seeker being set at £36.62 per week in 2014, rising to £36.95 per week from April 2015. In 2015 we also decided that providing £36.95 for every person in the household—in other words for the asylum seeker and each dependant—would be sufficient to cover the essential living needs of all family groups. This is because of the economies of scale available to large households and is an approach taken by other European countries as well.

I recognise that many organisations representing asylum seekers and children disagree with the changes, but none of these groups has provided detailed evidence to show that the findings of the review are wrong.