The death of a mother and child starkly illustrates the need for better support for successful asylum seekers
Politics of the asylum
The tragic case of new British citizens baby EG and his mother Mrs G, which we report on today, could have been avoided. This is shameful enough for the services involved, but it gets worse: the lessons of how to improve support for those who have gained asylum in the UK have not been learned. If anything, the chances of others needlessly losing their lives, after expecting safety on British soil, have increased.
Mrs G and her son died in London in March 2010 after becoming destitute. They had been accepted as UK citizens the previous year. While waiting for a decision on their application for asylum, the family had been supported by the National Asylum Support Service. According to the serious case review conducted by Westminster Council into the tragedy, the family had ‘chronic and complex health and social needs’. Despite this they experienced ‘significant problems’ in moving from NASS support to mainstream benefits.
At the time, support was available to help successful asylum seekers integrate into the UK, through services such as the Refugee Integration and Employment Service which was provided across the country by the charitable members of the Asylum Support Partnership. This service was supported by government, but funding was stopped last October and the service forced to close.
The government pledged at the time that ‘the most vulnerable new refugees’ would continue to be able to access support through the voluntary sector. It added that a working group with charities had been established to ensure this was the case, albeit at ‘cost-neutral’ levels. At the time ASP’s members expressed doubt that this would be possible. Unfortunately increased rough sleeping by new refugees suggests they were right.
In its case review, Westminster Council highlighted some areas where its housing teams could improve their approach to child protection. It also expressed concern at the lack of support for new refugees. The government has made some changes to address this latter issue, but it is clear this is not enough. Until more is done to help new Britons, the only welcome awaiting many will be destitution.