Forms and levels of material reception conditions
Section 95 cash support amounts to £163.58 per calendar month per person. There are no different rates, depending on the claimants’ ages and household compositions.
The amounts of Section 95 support are set by regulations, while Section 4 rates are a matter of policy. Small additional payments are available for pregnant women (£3 per week) if they claim this. They may also claim a maternity allowance of £250 (Section 4) or £300 (Section 95). Home Office guidance makes it explicit that pregnant women can be provided with the cost of a taxi journey when they are or may be in labour. Parents on section 4 support may claim an additional £5 on the card per week for children under 12 months, £3 per week for children between 1 and 3 years, and a clothing allowance for children under 16. None of these payments are made automatically, and if the asylum seeker is not aware of them or has difficulties in applying, the payments are not made. Section 4 support (for rejected asylum seekers) is paid at a flat rate of £35.39 per person per week. This is lower than asylum support under Section 95.
In practice, families who have dependent children before they have exhausted all appeal rights normally stay on cash support (Section 95) after their claim has been refused for as long as they remain in the UK or until the youngest child turns 18, although this can be removed if they do not abide by conditions.
The amount of support is not adequate to meet basic living needs. Asylum support under Section 95 is now 52% of the rate of welfare benefit for a UK national. People on Section 4 support receive even less, and the restriction to non-cash support means that they may not be able to take advantage of the cheapest options such as local shops and markets. Applicants for section 4 support are also experiencing delays and difficulties, as outlined in research conducted in 2019. Children of families on Section 95 and Section 98 support receive free school meals, but children of families on Section 4 do not.
Before the reduction in asylum support rates the adequacy of Section 95 support was the subject of a court challenge. Judgment was given in the High Court on 9 April 2014, criticising the methodology used to calculate the rates. The Secretary of State was required to remake the decision in the light of the court’s guidance. Following review the government concluded ‘that families were receiving more cash support to meet their essential living needs than they need, because the existing rates do not reflect the possibility of economies of scale within households’. The rates are reviewed annually and consultation is invited.
Further problems come from faults in the operation of the system, particularly when changes occur, such as moving from Section 95 to Section 4, or getting refugee status. Families may be left for weeks without any form of support through administrative delays and mistakes.
Asylum Support (Amendment No.2) Regulations 2015, SI 2015/944.
Home Office, Asylum Process Guidance – additional services or facilities under the 2007 Regulations.
Melanie Gower, Asylum: Financial Support for Asylum Seekers, House of Commons note SN/HA/1909, 2013.
Refugee Action and NACCOM, Missing the Safety Net, 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/37nC5lB.
House of Commons, Asylum support: accommodation and financial support for asylum seekers, Briefing paper no.1909.
See e.g. British Red Cross, Still an ordeal, December 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2APRYCW; Refugee Council, Refugees without refuge: Findings from a survey of newly recognised refugees, September 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2wNIdEz; England’s forgotten refugees, May 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/1U4c3VH. See also Guardian, ‘“Destitution is routine”: refugees face homelessness even after gaining asylum’, 8 September 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2wOcuAM.