HL Deb 29 January 2003 vol 643 cc161-2WA
Baroness Park of Monmouth

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What time must elapse before (a) the holder of a valid British passport arriving in this country without means, and (b) an asylum seeker arriving in this country destitute, becomes entitled to accommodation and social security benefits. [HL1026]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

There is no set time-scale within which British passport holders arriving in the UK who are not habitually resident in the common travel area (the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) become eligible for income-related benefits or social housing. However, if they apply for either they are subject to the habitual residence test. If they pass the test they can receive help through the benefit system and apply for social housing immediately. If they fail the test they may appeal against the decision or re-apply at a later date.

Under the National Assistance Act 1948, local authorities may provide accommodation to British passport holders who do not pass the habitual residence test if they are destitute and have a need for care and attention which is not otherwise available. Such accommodation can only be provided as board and lodging and if the local authority considers it appropriate to do so in all the circumstances. Authorities are not obliged under the Act to provide other services or cash payments.

Under the Children Act 1989 local authority social services departments are responsible for supporting any children in need, regardless of their country of origin. A returning child with a UK passport would receive help from social services in the same way as any other child. Services are provided to protect the welfare of the child but can be provided to other family members if to do so would meet this primary aim. Support under the Act is also available to unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Since 3 April 2000, the Home Office, through the National Asylum Support Service, has been responsible for supporting and accommodating asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their asylum application. Such support can be provided on arrival in the UK. New measures introduced in the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which came into force on 8 January 2003, deny support, with certain exceptions, to those asylum seekers who do not make their application as soon as is reasonably practicable.