Cuts in allowances for asylum seekers, including single parents, are provoking fury among children’s groups and Labour MPs.
A coalition of eight charities today demands talks with Home Office over the reductions, which it warns will drive more youngsters into poverty.
The plans to slash or freeze payments for many asylum-seekers were revealed by The Independent in July and the new lower rates came fully into effect last week.
Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, Gingerbread, the Mother’s Union, Mumsnet, the NSPCC, Save the Children and Women for Refugee Women denounced the cuts in a joint statement.
They warned the reductions would “further jeopardise the well-being of some of the most vulnerable children in our community”.
Mumsnet’s intervention is particularly embarrassing for the Government as the website, founded by mothers to share parenting tips, today hosts a live webchat with Gordon Brown.
Justine Roberts, its managing director, said: “We know how hard raising children can be, even in comfortable circumstances. So we can’t support cuts that will make life harder still for families seeking asylum.”
Lisa Nandy, policy adviser at the Children’s Society, said: “This pushes asylum-seeking children further into poverty and is a blight on their childhood.”
Neera Sharma, assistant director of policy at Barnardo’s, said: “The cuts will force these children to live below the poverty line which in this – the world’s fifth richest nation – is shameful.”
The subsistence allowance paid to single asylum-seekers aged 25 and over has been cut from £42.16 to £35.13 a week.
Allowances paid to lone parents have been pegged at the current level of £42.16 – equivalent in real terms to a reduction. The revised rates apply to new asylum applicants rather than those already in the system.
Last night the Labour MP Neil Gerrard, chairman of the all-party group on refugees, promised to protest to ministers.
He said: “People with children are already expected to live on less than we would pay on income support. If there are further cuts on top there is real concern over the impact.
“The amounts of money concerned are not going to be that great in relation to the Home Office budget.”
Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, said: “Asylum seekers typically live in UK Border Agency accommodation and so have no housing costs, or water, gas or electricity bills.
“In view of the difficult economic climate, support rates were reviewed this year to ensure essential living needs of asylum seekers could be met within budgetary constraints. We review asylum support rates on an annual basis.”