Yesterday under cover of various other things, the Government reduced the already meagre cash allowance for asylum seekers from inadequate (according to the 2012 Cross Party Enquiry, and a court ruling in 2014) to woefully inadequate.
Today, a single parent with one child receives just £96.90 per week for all food, clothes and toiletries for the two.
On 10 August this will reduce to £73.90 in total (36.95 each). Single adults at the moment receive £36.62 and will now also receive £36.95. The cuts apply to parents and children.
This can only result in more children in poverty. These children have already come from desperate situations. These amounts are well below the amounts assessed for social security as necessary for basic living, even accounting for the provision of accommodation which is provided on top of this cash allowance.
Do you think you could manage indefinitely on £36.95 for all your food, clothes and toiletries? Even if you buy all your children’s clothes at charity shops? Without a proper kitchen to prepare food from scratch and balanced meals?
This has all happened without parliamentary scrutiny.
The Coalition government removed the link with social security allowances and then tried to reduce the allowance in March just before the election. The Liberal Democrat coalition partners refused to support this, so the Tory Ministers withdrew it, only to bring it back in now.
Because the Minister is doing this through what is called secondary legislation – a regulation, not a change in law – and because this is what is called a negative procedure, he has no obligation to discuss it with parliament. Holding him to account is harder, therefore, but not impossible. And there is some possibility that we could get him to halt, though it will depend on enough Tory MPs deciding that £73.90 is insufficient to feed, clothe and provide toiletries for one adult and one child (and the equivalent for larger families).
What am I doing about this?
As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on refugees, I’ve been liaising with refugee organisations and mobilising colleagues from all opposition parties and the Tory party, I am doing my best to make it harder for the government Minister to get away with this:
• I’ve contacted our front bench spokesperson David Hanson MP - he has confirmed that on Moonday he will do what is quaintly called "pray against" this (official language for urging the Government to come to the House of Commons to have to answer for himself on this and take part in a debate and vote). This is our last chance of getting any government response before recess, though unlikely to be successful. However, we may be able to get the Minister to answer an Urgent Question.
• I've contact the government Minister to ask for an urgent meeting and I've asked my Tory colleagues sympathetic to refugees to do the same (they stand more chance than I do). When I asked two South West Tory MPs to ask him for a review of this proposal recently (before yesterday’s announcement) they were very prompt in doing so – I’m hoping that they will now follow this up by asking again.
• I've asked colleagues in the APPG to put down written questions and the front bench to ask for Urgent Question.
• I’ve arranged to meet key individuals from the main national refugee organisations on Tuesday and speak to others during the week. My constituency team will be contacting local refugee organisations and others in Bristol during the week to find out what we might be able to do to help with the impact of this.
• I will continue to mobilise MPs from across the House of Commons throughout the summer and making sure that they know what is likely to happen to asylum seeker families in their constituency on 10 August, particularly those with seats which are dispersal areas for asylum seekers.
Please, anyone who lives in a Tory seat, contact your MP about this – and if you have a friend who lives in a Tory seat, ask them to contact their MP.
We need Tory MPs to contact the Right Honourable James Brokenshire MP, the government minister for immigration, and urge him to reconsider. Please help to make sure James Brokenshire knows people care.
I pledged during the election campaign that if elected, I would do everything I could every day as an MP to help to end child poverty. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill going through Parliament now is also going to increase child poverty and I am also acting on this – more on this on this blog soon. But that Bill has further to go through parliament and has full parliamentary scrutiny. This action against asylum seekers is going to happen within four weeks and at the moment, without parliamentary scrutiny. Please help me to help make sure that we try to persuade the Minister to think again.