This week sees the launch of ‘Asylum and Refugee Support: Civil Society Filling the Gaps?’, a new report published by Dr. Lucy Mayblin and Poppy James on the scale of the response by the third sector to gaps in support for asylum seekers, refused asylum seekers and refugees.
As part of a wider three year study (Asylum.Welfare.Work) at the University of Warwick, this report focuses on the financial cost to the refugee third sector of asylum policy, including the scale and needs of the sector and the number and needs of people that are being supported.
The report was launched at an event yesterday in London, which Dave and Lucy from NACCOM attended alongside representatives from across the sector (including City of Sanctuary, Refugee Action, Refugee Council, Asylum Matters, British Red Cross, ASSIST Sheffield and Asylum Welcome), academics from across the UK and representatives from the Home Office.
Following an overview of the findings, the event featured discussions on the context within which asylum policy sits, the issues that organisations within the sector are facing as a direct result of political action (and inaction) and the opportunities for change, both in terms of grass roots campaign actions and policy reform.
The report sets out evidence of destitution amongst several groups, including people with NRPF and those individuals who are entitled to support. It points out that ‘even if the numbers of new organisations, and funds required just to support destitute refused asylum seekers were increasing year on year, this in itself would point to a policy failure, the worst impacts on society of which would be being ameliorated by such organisations.‘ However, it finds that many third sector organisations are, alongside supporting destitute refused asylum seekers, aiding asylum seekers who are also accessing asylum support as well as those who have been granted leave to remain. This the report concludes, ‘suggest[s] a policy failure regarding the system of support for asylum seekers and refugees: that levels of support are inadequate’.
The report also finds that the rising numbers of third sector organisations in the sector ‘correlates not with the numbers of asylum applications received by the UK government, but with an ever more restrictive approach to the economic rights and entitlements of forced migrants in the UK.’
On resource and capacity, the report finds that RTSOs across England and Wales (using data from the Charity Commission) last year spent an estimated £33.4 million. This includes, but is not limited to, destitution services. It goes on to assess that due to the the scale of need, the number of organisations forming in response to that need, and the financial context within which many of these organisations operate (i.e. often in dispersal areas where there is higher deprivation), there is a high risk of unsustainability within the sector.
NACCOM was featured as a case study in the report, with data collated from its annual survey used to evidence the scale of the response to need and some of the different ways that the sector has responded to financial challenges.
In response to increasing demand for services and decreasing levels of funding, the report makes several key recommendations:
For Asylum seekers in receipt of Section 95 support:
1. Grant asylum seekers the right to work once they have been waiting 6 months for a decision.
2. Increase levels of Section 95 support to at least 70% of Job Seekers Allowance, and increase annually in line with inflation.
3. Address administrative delays and mistakes relating to Section 95 support.
For refused asylum seekers in receipt of Section 4 support:
1. Increase levels of Section 4 support in line with Section 95 levels.
2. Address administrative delays and mistakes which leave refused asylum applicants who are entitled to Section 4 support destitute
3. Make Section 4 a cash-based, rather than voucher-based system.
4. Remove the 21 day deadline for applying for Section 95A support when introduced to replace Section 4 support
5. Allow appeals on Section 95A application decisions when introduced to replace Section 4 support.
Those granted leave to remain (refugees):
1. Introduce a national refugee integration strategy which starts from Day 1 that leave to remain is granted.
2. Extend the 28 day ‘moving on’ period.
3. Acknowledge the link to asylum policy.
Refused asylum seekers who are not known to have departed:
1. Introduce a humane, realistic, and evidence informed strategy for supporting such individuals, which looks beyond detention and removal.
2. Increase access to legal advice, and legal aid, for refused asylum seekers.
3. Section 95 support should not end 21 days after a negative decision is administered.
4. Keep pregnant women and families with children on Section 95 support, regardless of their status.
5. Open up access to Section 95 support for refused asylum seekers who cannot return home due to a lack of documentation and/or…
6. Grant discretionary leave to remain to people who cannot be returned through no fault of their own, after a period of 12 months
7. Introduce an enhanced package of funding for third sector organisations
8. Conduct a review of procedures within the asylum system which can lead to wrongful decisions