Last October, the Home Secretary announced the current voucher system would be scrapped by Autumn this year. In a statement to the Commons earlier this week, he confirmed that this date would be brought forward to 8 April 2002, subject to parliamentary approval.
From this date, asylum seekers will receive vouchers which are exchangeable for cash, rather than goods. They will still be administered by the private company Sodexho, to be collected from post offices. Other forms of support, such as maternity vouchers, will also be issued in cash vouchers.
The withdrawal of vouchers in favour of a cash-based system of asylum support represents a significant victory for the work of the Refugee Council and other organisations which have campaigned to put an end to the discriminatory system, which has imposed stigma and hardship on already vulnerable people.
The force of the campaign against vouchers came from a coalition between the Refugee Council, Oxfam, Bill Morris and the Transport and General Workers Union, plus the many other organisations and who lent their support, underpinned by thousands of individuals who wrote letters to their MP or supermarket. The strength of opinion against vouchers led the Home Office to conduct a review into the the system, which recognised difficulties inherent in the scheme.
The 8th April is also the date when the amount of support available to asylum seekers will go up in line with inflation, equal to 70 per cent of income support rates.
The Home Office report of the operational reviews of the voucher and dispersal schemes.
Find out more about the campaign against vouchers.