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Report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Asylum Support for Children and Young People

Our inquiry set out to look at the support provided to children and families seeking protection from war and persecution. What was clear from the evidence we received was that systemic failures from successive governments are leaving many destitute – some who have no access to any support at all and many others where the level of support is inadequate to meet basic living needs. Parents told us they went without food to buy basic items for their family, and even then struggled to provide healthy food, winter coats and school uniforms for their children. We met families whose children had experienced this poverty for their entire lives.

But it wasn’t just inadequate financial support that caused distress to families. What appalled the panel most were the personal stories of the disrespect many had experienced. Racial abuse and victimisation at the hands of members of the public were striking enough, but more shocking for us were the examples of abject disregard for basic human dignity demonstrated by housing providers. Frequent moves and failures on continuity of care, disruption to children’s friendships, education and family support networks were also a profoundly negative influence on children’s well-being. We were presented with evidence of the increased maternal and infant death rates amongst pregnant women in the asylum system, caused by poverty, problems accessing care and social isolation. The families with the worst ordeals are those on Section 4 support. We could see no merit in maintaining this parallel support system. The regime is described by ministers as austere. It would be hard to argue that is humane. Leaving children and their families with no money to catch a bus, make a phone call, or buy basic goods seems senseless, particularly with the cost involved in running a parallel bureaucracy such as this. The strain described by families who endure this system of support, but who are unable to return home, is not something this cross party panel think is defensible.

We make a series of recommendations in our report relating to financial support and to policy around housing and the right to work. None of these recommendations would be particularly expensive. Some of them would be cost free. All would, we believe, make a substantial difference to the way children growing up in the asylum system are able to develop, learn and flourish.