Support Available to Asylum Seekers: Maintenance

Understanding Asylum Support Eligibility

To qualify for support, you need to be over 18 and have an asylum or Article 3 ECHR claim under review by the Home Office or Immigration Tribunal. Once your claim, including appeals, is fully decided, you are not eligible for section 95 support but might qualify for section 4 support.

Section 95 Support: Who Can Apply?

You could get Section 95 support if:

  • You’re awaiting a decision on an asylum claim under the Refugee Convention.
  • You’re awaiting a decision on an asylum claim under Article 3 of the ECHR.
  • You’re a dependent of an asylum seeker and haven’t applied for support.
  • You’re appealing against a refusal of your asylum claim, and it’s still under review.

Section 4 Support: Who Can Apply?

Support Available to Asylum Seekers: Maintenance
Support Available to Asylum Seekers: Maintenance

You might qualify for section 4 support if:

  • You’re a failed asylum seeker planning a voluntary departure or facing a temporary barrier to leaving the UK.
  • You and any dependants are, or will be, homeless or without any financial means in the next 14 days.

After You Apply

A caseworker will assess your eligibility based on the evidence you provide. They might ask for more information to complete the assessment. You’ll be informed in writing about the decision. If successful, you’ll receive details of your support package.

If your application is refused, we’ll explain why in writing and guide you on how to appeal.

Processing Time

The time to process an application varies. If you’re an asylum seeker without shelter or money, you can apply for initial accommodation while waiting for a decision on longer-term support. For section 4 support applicants, we aim to decide within five working days, provided we have all necessary information.

Financial Help for Asylum Seekers

You can get financial support if you are without adequate housing or cannot afford basic living necessities. From 15 January 2024, you might receive:

  • £49.18 weekly if you’re in self-catering accommodation or need just cash support.
  • £8.86 weekly if your accommodation includes meals.

According to the Home Office, this allowance aims to cover your essential needs such as food, clothing, travel, and more, allowing you to participate in societal activities. Your accommodation is free from rent and utility charges and comes with necessary household items.

Using the ASPEN Card

Since May 2017, the UK government makes payments through the ASPEN card. This card lets you shop, get cashback, and withdraw cash from ATMs but has some usage restrictions.

Extra Help for Families

If you’re an asylum seeker with a family, extra financial support is available for pregnant women and young children to buy healthy food. Since January 2024:

  • Pregnant women and children aged one to three get an extra £5.25 weekly.
  • Babies under one year old receive £9.50 extra each week.

These updated rates, the first increase since March 2003, now also cover three-year-old children, aligning with the Healthy Start scheme from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Maternity Grants

For women who are at least 32 weeks pregnant or have a newborn up to six weeks old, there’s a one-off £300 maternity grant. This financial boost supports new mothers in their crucial early stages of motherhood.

Applying for Additional Support

The law recognises that some asylum seekers may face unique or more costly needs. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may be eligible for extra support. This could be due to:

  • Having essential needs that differ from the general asylum-seeking population.
  • Incurring higher costs to meet a common need due to your specific circumstances.

The caseworkers will assess each request for additional support individually. They can provide extra help through cash, in-kind contributions, accommodation changes, or other means.

The Legal Framework

Support Available to Asylum Seekers: Maintenance
Support Available to Asylum Seekers: Maintenance

Support rates for asylum seekers come from both regulations and policy. The Asylum Support Regulations 2000 specify a weekly cash rate for self-catered accommodation. If asylum seekers get essentials like meals in their accommodation, they receive a lower rate. However, regulations don’t set this reduced amount precisely. This flexibility allows support to match individual needs, showing the government’s dedication to effectively helping asylum seekers.

Regular Reviews to Prevent Destitution

The Home Secretary is committed to preventing destitution among asylum seekers, although there’s no legal mandate for regular review of support rates or adjustments in line with inflation. The Home Office conducts annual reviews to ensure the sufficiency of these rates, incorporating feedback from selected voluntary organisations. While reports of these reviews may appear on GOV.UK, changes, especially to self-catered accommodation rates, typically result from amendments to the Asylum Support Regulations 2000. Occasionally, policy decisions or court rulings prompt interim adjustments.

Recent Adjustments and Methodologies

In response to rising inflation and court findings of previous inadequacies, the Home Office revised its approach to updating support rates in January 2024. This included a reevaluation of costs leading to an increase in weekly support for self-catered accommodation to £49.18 and a slight decrease for catered accommodation to £8.86.

Scrutiny and Calls for Increases

Asylum rights advocates have long argued that basic support rates fail to meet essential needs. Recent analyses by organisations like the British Red Cross and Asylum Matters highlight a significant real-term decline in support rates and detail the struggles faced by asylum seekers in affording basic necessities. The Women and Equalities Committee, examining these concerns, recommended aligning support rates closer to Universal Credit levels and addressing specific needs, such as period poverty among women. However, the Government maintains that Universal Credit comparisons are inappropriate, asserting that asylum support rates are adequate and that certain needs are met by accommodation providers.

Conditions and Appeals for Asylum Support

Asylum support comes with conditions. Failing to follow these can lead to suspension or cancellation of support. The rules cover things like staying in your assigned accommodation, being open about your finances, and following requests for information. You must also inform the Home Office about significant changes in your life, such as moving house or changes in your family.

When Support Can Be Withdrawn

The Asylum Support Regulations outline reasons for stopping support, including not following accommodation rules or hiding financial information. A significant life change must be reported as it could affect your support eligibility. Detailed guidance on these processes is available in Home Office policy documents.

Your Right to Appeal

If the Home Office stops or refuses to provide support, you might have the right to challenge this decision through the First-Tier Tribunal (Asylum Support). This applies mainly to section 95 support issues before your asylum claim is resolved. While you can’t appeal against all types of support refusals, you can request the Home Office to review its decision. You’ll need to lodge your appeal quickly, within three working days of receiving the refusal letter, and legal aid is limited to appeals involving accommodation.

How Appeals Work

The tribunal, located in London, can conduct hearings in person, via video, or telephone, or make a decision based on written submissions. Judges have several options, including asking for a reconsideration of the decision, changing the decision themselves, or dismissing the appeal. If an appeal is not successful, the Home Office will only revisit your support application if your circumstances significantly change.

Support Available to Asylum Seekers: Maintenance