Asylum vouchers worth even less as benefit levels increase

03 Apr 2001

Refugee Council release

As the troubled voucher scheme for asylum seekers marks its first year, the Refugee Council is calling on the Government not to further impoverish asylum seekers and their children by letting the value of vouchers erode. Despite action to increase the level of Income Support and other benefits from this April, the Government has no plans to increase the value of voucher support. The real value of the vouchers will therefore fall. The current value of vouchers stands at 70% of the basic rate of income support.

In particular, the Government repeatedly promised that the children of asylum seekers would receive vouchers worth 100% of Income Support. A failure to increase the rate of vouchers to children will mean this promise to some of the most vulnerable children in the country has been broken. In addition, asylum seeking families with children are not entitled to child benefit.

It is now one year since the controversial vouchers were introduced and our experience and research clearly illustrates that the system is expensive and bureaucratic, that it humiliates asylum seekers and that it undermines the Government’s strategies on social exclusion and child poverty.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
"One year on and the voucher nightmare for asylum seekers deepens. As benefit levels rise with inflation, the value of vouchers will become even more derisory, condemning asylum seekers to unacceptable hardship."

Information gathered from 50 organisations working with refugees, released in December by organisations including Oxfam, the Refugee Council, Transport and General Workers Union and the Body Shop, set out an overwhelming case against vouchers. 98% of the organisations said asylum seekers were not able to buy essential items such as baby milk, nappies and shoes, 82% said asylum seekers were not able to buy enough food. The voucher system also prevents asylum seekers from shopping at lower cost outlets such as markets that people on income support rely upon.

ENDS