To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the basis of their assessment in the Explanatory Memorandum for the Asylum Support (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2015 that the current payment methodology by which additional cash payments are made for each child under the age of 18 "provides more than enough to cover the needs of individual children".
Asylum seekers, including dependants of asylum seekers, who are destitute are provided with accommodation and a cash allowance to cover their “essential living needs” - the legal test. The level of the allowance is kept under regular review.
The most recent review of asylum support payments earlier this year looked at data spending on essential items by the lowest decile (10%) income group in the UK taken from the latest report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on Family Spending published on 2 December 2014. Other data from the study, specifically in relation to spending by households with children, was also reviewed. In addition, research was undertaken into the actual costs of particular essential items, including the cost of food stuffs, clothing, toiletries, household cleaning stuffs and non-prescription medication, as well as travel and communications.
Whilst the ONS data is useful in identifying levels of spending on particular items, it does not provide the definition of “essential living items”. This is provided for in international and domestic legislation, most notably the EU Reception Conditions Directive 2003, Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Nationality Act 1999 and the Asylum support Regulations 2000. In addition, guidance in respect of which specific items could be considered as essential was provided by Justice Popplewell in his 2014 judgement in respect of the Refugee Action challenge to the Asylum Support Rates.
The Government has no plans to publish minutes of meetings held with external partners or to share more widely papers provided by them which were considered in the review. Despite the planned reduction in the rate, the payments are still sufficient to meet the essential needs of asylum seekers and their families. Those affected were notified of the changes by letter, sent out on Thursday 16 July, which provided more than 3 weeks notice of the intended reduction in their payments.
The adequacy of the payment rates will be kept under review through the annual review cycle and in line with the statutory test to ensure that the right level of support is provided to asylum seekers and their families.