The number of asylum-seeking children ending up destitute in Leeds has almost tripled in just 18 months in part due to government policy, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has warned.
A four-week study from April-May this year found there were 331 destitute asylum-seekers in the city, up from the 118 identified in a similar study from October-November 2006. The number of children affected had shot up from 13 to 51, while the total number who had been destitute for over two years had risen from 13 to 72.
The most common reason for destitution was delays in receiving support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which applies to failed asylum seekers who cannot return home. This involves accommodation and vouchers for basic items, which can be spent at a limited number of shops.
More destitution under new asylum model
Researchers also found that those whose cases had been handled under the “new asylum model” – introduced in 2006-7 to speed-up the process and improve case management – were much more likely to be destitute than others (38% as opposed to 13%).
Twenty two asylum seekers also said they had been made homeless because administrative errors had led to their support being stopped.
As one of the UK’s seven “asylum centres” the report said that the problems encountered in Leeds were likely to be reproduced elsewhere.
“Devastating impact of asylum policy”
Bill Kilgallon, a commissioner in the original Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust inquiry into Leeds and former chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, said: “Government asylum policy and its implementation is having a devastating impact on the lives of people in desperate need of help. This survey clearly shows that the asylum crisis highlighted 18 months ago is actually getting worse despite – and, in some cases, because of – the introduction of the government’s new asylum model.”
The charity called for urgent government action to end delays in section 4 support and for new procedures to be installed to ensure that no child is refused support.