HIV Activists Network Campaigns
These are the campaigns which the HIV Activists Network are currently working on.
Ask your MP to sign the EDM for increased asylum support levels
The great majority of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK have to meet their essential living needs of food, clothing, toiletries and travel on just £5 a day. Research into poverty and HIV in the UK shows that insufficient asylum support is a key driver of extreme poverty amongst people living with HIV.
Sarah Teather MP tabled Early Day Motion (EDM) No. 1019 on Asylum Support Rates (full text below). Getting your MP to sign the EDM sends a message to the Government that imposing poverty on asylum seekers which damages their health is not acceptable.
What are the issues?
- NAT’s research into the experience of poverty amongst people living with HIV showed that the people in the most desperate need were those reliant on the asylum support provided by UKBA. With no other means of supporting themselves, their health was suffering and they had to seek hardship grants from charity to meet their basic needs.
- Income Support is set at what is considered to be the minimum amount people need to meet their basic living needs. Asylum seekers have to survive on the equivalent of just 52% of Income Support while waiting for the UKBA to make a decision on their application.
- In 1999, Asylum Support levels were set at 70% of Income Support, but have been decreased in recent years. Whilst Income Support is increased every year to keep up with inflation, asylum support rates have not been increased since April 2011.
- Asylum seekers do not have a right to seek work in the UK. If they have been waiting for more than 12 months for a decision on their asylum claim, they may apply for permission to seek work (but this is by no means automatically granted).
- Some asylum seekers have had their claim refused but are permitted to stay in the UK because the Government recognises that it is currently not safe for them to return to their home country. This group do not receive any cash support, only vouchers. This is called ‘Section 4’ support and is also the equivalent of about £5 a day – but purchases can only be made at designated stores, and they cannot access cash for transport (e.g. to their HIV clinic) or any other daily costs. Many struggle to buy fresh food, warm clothing, and nappies and other essentials for their children.
- NAT is a member of the Still Human Still Here campaign, which calls for an end to destitution amongst asylum seekers. Still Human Still Here and this EDM call for asylum support to be increased to at least 70% of the level of income support, and uprated each year. As an individual charity, NAT believes it should be 100% equivalent to income support rates.
How can I get involved?
- Check if your MP has signed the EDM: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/1019
- Ask your MP to sign the EDM, the full text of which is:
EDM 1019 text:
That this House believes that Britain can rightly be proud of its history of welcoming those fleeing persecution and war; welcomes the cross-party parliamentary report on asylum support for children and families; notes with concern the finding of that report that current asylum support levels are leaving up to 10,000 children destitute or in severe poverty; further believes that section 4 support rates are especially austere and that cashless payments impose damaging restrictions on how families buy essential items; further notes that asylum support rates have not been increased since April 2011; regrets that the previous Government broke the historic link between support rates for asylum seekers and income support; calls on the Government to increase asylum support rates so that they are at least equal to 70 per cent of income support and to up-rate support rates annually; and further calls on the Government to abolish section 4 support and implement a single cash-based support system.
- If you find your MP has already signed the EDM, you might like to email or write to them to show your support for the stand they have taken.
- Use your postcode to find the name of your MP at http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/, then click here to find their email address.
- If you would like to ask your MP to sign the EDM, you can find the template email for you to personalise here
- You could also ask to meet with your MP to talk about the issue and show that as a constituent you are very concerned with poverty amongst asylum seekers.
What difference will it make?
- EDMs are a good way for MPs to show their views on policy issues and open up a space for debate on topics which might not otherwise be heard in the House of Commons.
- If the EDM is signed by lots of MPs, campaigning organisations like NAT and Still Human Still Here can show the Government that there is support for change on this issue.
- Asking your MP to sign the EDM is a good way to show them that constituents do care about the treatment of asylum seekers in this country.
Further information and resources
- Poverty & HIV: 2006-2009
- Still Human Still Here briefing on common asylum misconceptions (good background for a meeting with an MP).
Need more help?
Get in touch with NAT at HIVactivist@nat.org.ukor 020 7814 6767.
Stand up for the future of HIV prevention, testing and support services
Write to your council leader and ask what they are doing to ensure HIV services are there for those who need them using this link http://act.lifewithhiv.org.uk/lobby/councilWAD