Almost half-a-million people signed the change.org petition calling for Iain Duncan Smith, the current Work and Pensions Secretary, to prove his claim of being able to live on £53 a week.
He’d have it easy compared with the 2,068 asylum seekers living on just £35.39 per week support from the Home Office under section 4 of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. To make things even harder these people are not given any cash but a piece of plastic, called an Azure card, that can only be spent in a limited range of shops and if they don’t spend every penny it’s wiped off the card each week.
According to research from the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University, the minimum income standard for a single person is £262.25. But that includes rent, council tax, gas and electricity, which the Home Office pays directly. It also includes petrol and £5 per week on cigarettes but Asylum seekers are prohibited from buying petrol, cigarettes or alcohol on their Azure card. The weekly amount also includes things like insurance and motoring expenses that asylum seekers certainly don’t have.
If we strip things back to the very basics then according to the research the minimum income required for a single person per week is £80.76 and I haven’t included anything for the bus fair for the required trip to report to Home Office each week or month:
· £48.25 food
· £11.55 household goods – kitchen cleaning and bathroom
· £11.65 personal goods – toiletries and health care
· £9.31 clothes
It may be possible to manage on less than this for a short while – but I was shocked by Mark Harper’s reply to my letter expressing my concern.
“We do not think the value of cash and non-cash support is ungenerous…” Mark Harper MP in personal letter, May 2013
If £35.39 per week is generous then I’d like to see Mark Harper rise to the challenge of living on it for even one week. Perhaps he could donate the amount he’d save to our charity so that we can support people with the mental and physical difficulties caused by their desperate situation.
Peter Richardson is Director of Leeds Asylum Seekers’ Support Network, a small charity in Leeds where over 250 volunteers support around 700 asylum seekers and refugees each year.
 Number of asylum seekers on Section 4 support at the end of March 2013. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2013/immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2013#asylum-1