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Sarah Teather's speech in debate on Asylum Support for Children and Young People

February 28, 2013 5:42 PM

Following the inquiry into asylum support for children and young people, supported by The Children's Society, Sarah Teather secured a debate in Parliament on the inquiry's findings.

During the debate, Sarah, who chaired the cross-party panel of parliamentarians and expects who carried out the inquiry, said:

"All the panel would agree that some of the evidence we received was extremely shocking and very upsetting. We found that families are often surviving on as little as £5 a day per person. Parents told us that they often skip meals to pay for basic items and that it is particularly difficult for them to pay for any item, such as a winter coat or shoes, that requires slightly more money. They told us that they are unable to pay for their children's school trips and uniform, a situation exacerbated by the frequent moves during dispersal and rehousing that affect many families. Birthdays, toys and other things that other families take for granted are another question entirely.

"Asylum support rates have fallen way below the poverty line in recent years; they were first set at 90% of income support rates, but it was later agreed that they be set at 70% of income support rates. Successive Governments have failed to uprate those benefits under section 95 and section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, thereby allowing them to fall way beneath the basic level of support that we would consider appropriate for families-that of income support.

"The levels of the benefits are extremely complex and are set differently for children of different ages. For children under 15 without a disability, the levels are significantly less punitive than those set for adults, slightly older children and children with disabilities. Of course, the problem is that families are living on a whole family budget, not just the child's extra bit of support.

"We found that, when the support is added together, parents with a 10-year-old disabled child are living on just a third of income support levels. It is difficult to see how any family can possibly be expected to survive on such small amounts of money. Notwithstanding any deductions for accommodation, which is paid for separately, it is difficult to see how a family can manage for a prolonged period on such small benefit levels."

Sarah's full speech can be read online at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130227/halltext/130227h0001.htm#13022755000001

The full debate can be watched at here.