HC Deb 05 April 2001 vol 366 cc254-5W
Mr. Stunell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what range of payments in cash and in kind is made available to(a) asylum seekers awaiting determination of their claim and (b) asylum seekers who are granted admission to the United Kingdom by way of (i) grants, (ii) loans and (iii) specific access to social security payments. [155551]

Mrs. Roche

The new support arrangements for destitute asylum seekers under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 came into force on 3 April 2000. Under these arrangements the Home Office has taken over responsibility for supporting and accommodating asylum seekers.

Those asylum seekers in receipt of benefits, prior to 3 April 2000 will be transitionally protected and will continue to be eligible to claim Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. However, benefit is not payable to asylum seekers appealing against the refusal of refugee status. Asylum seekers who no longer qualify for social security benefits, and who have no other means of support, will be eligible for assistance from the National Asylum Support Service.

Under the new arrangements, asylum seekers receive support from the National Asylum Support Service in kind (vouchers), with a small cash allowance to meet incidental expenses. Where accommodation is provided the cost of this, and utilities are met centrally.

The Home Office also pays grants to local authorities (within fixed unit cost limits) to enable them to provide accommodation and essential living needs to asylum seekers under the interim arrangements. It is for local authorities to decide the best way to provide support to asylum seekers, within the terms of the interim scheme.

Those asylum seekers whose applications are determined favourably and who are awarded refugee status or exceptional leave are eligible for social security benefits. Those who are awarded full refugee status may qualify for a retrospective payment of Income Support, calculated as the difference between the benefit they would have received and the support paid to them by the National Asylum Support Service. Refugees will also be eligible for a backdated payment of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for any unmet rent and council tax liabilities while their asylum application was determined.