A Parliamentary inquiry is looking at whether the existing asylum support system meets the needs of children and young people. The inquiry was launched in October, after concerns were raised that the protection offered by the system had fallen below the intended levels.
The asylum support system
Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 places a duty on the Home Secretary to make arrangements for ensuring that immigration, asylum, nationality and customs functions are discharged in a way that safeguards and promotes the welfare of children.
As immigration restrictions mean that people seeking asylum are generally not permitted to work, or to claim support under the mainstream benefits system, the Home Office then created the asylum support system. This provides applicants – and their children – with a set amount of support. Strict conditions are imposed.
How the system is working in practice
According to a report published by The Children’s Society in April, asylum support levels for children and families are well below mainstream benefit levels, leaving around 10,000 children in severe poverty for long periods of time.
The charity found that support for children seeking protection in the UK can be as little as half of that received through the mainstream benefits system. In some cases children and families would need nearly three times more than they currently receive in order to be pulled out of poverty.
Concerns about these levels of protection has led a group of cross-party MPs and peers, led by former Children’s Minister Sarah Teather MP, to look again at asylum support.
It is the first time since 2009 that there has been a formal review of the system and the protection it gives to children.
The Parliamentary inquiry
“I am concerned that currently many thousands of children and young people grow up in the asylum system and we know that severe poverty can have a detrimental effect on health, education and development,” said Sarah Teather. “The panel will look at the asylum support system through the eyes of children and hear about their experiences.”
Experts, academics and families have already presented their evidence at two panel sessions, with a third to come in mid-December.
The panel, assisted by The Children’s Society, will find out what support is provided for children, whether this system promotes their welfare and best interests and if there are gaps, the panel will propose solutions.
This guest post is courtesy of Richmond Chambers, Immigration Barristers: www.immigrationbarrister.co.uk. Contact them for specialist immigration law advice.