The MLP represented Refugee Action in a challenge to the rate at which financial support is paid to asylum seekers to meet their essential living needs under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Asylum seekers without any means of support are dependent on the Home Office for support because they can only work in very limited circumstances if there has been no decision on their asylum claim by the Home Office for a year. When the current system was first introduced, asylum support was said by the then Government to be set at 70% of Income Support rates. However, presently asylum support rates are at significantly lower than 70% of income support. The consequence of this is that in the view of respected NGOs such as Refugee Action, the current rates do not enable people to meet their essential living needs.For example, the current rate for a single person aged 18 or over is only £36.62 per week. This is to cover money for food, clothes, transport costs, costs of telephone calls and any social activities.
Summary of the case
Refugee Action argued that the rate at which asylum support is paid is too low and that the Home Office’s position is unlawful because: (1) there is no rational explanation as to how it has concluded that the current rate is sufficient to meet essential living needs; (2) its position is contrary to European Union law; (3) the Home Office has not complied with her duties under the Equality Act 2010; and (4) it is in breach of its duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under Section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.
The case was heard in in February 2014, and judgement was handed down on 9th April 2014, ruling that the Home Secretary had acted ‘irrationally’ in setting support rates. The Home Office was ordered to recalculate the rates at which asylum support is set, and in August 2014 released new rates which had no substantive increase. Work is ongoing to ensure that the positive ruling of April 2014 translates into real change for asylum seekers.
The full judgement can be found here
Briefing notes for practitioners can be found here