This month, the UK government announced that from 5 February asylum seekers - who currently receive just £36.95 a week to live on - will see their weekly allowance increased for the first time in three years. ‘Hooray!’ I hear you cry, ‘About bloody time!’ But before you fire those party poppers in celebration of this apparent display of human decency from the Home Office, hold fire - the increase is a measly 80p.
So yeah, you may be feeling a bit less elated now. Is an 80p increase worth celebrating? No, it’s bloody not.
The extra 80p brings the increased allowance to a grand total of £37.75 per person per week, which continues to effectively force asylum seekers - almost all of who are denied the right to work - to live in poverty. This isn’t an oversight; when calculating the estimated costs of food, toiletries and non-prescription medicines, the Home Office used the Office for National Statistics’ data on the spending patterns of the poorest 10% of the UK’s population.
Even with the extra 80p per week, asylum seekers’ allowance is still less than 70% of mainstream benefits. And it shouldn’t be news to anybody that many people receiving mainstream benefits are also struggling to make ends meet. Last year saw a continued rise in the number of people using foodbanks, a sustained increase of children and pensioners living in poverty, and reports that found austerity measures are hitting poorest households hardest. Yet in a statement about the 80p rise, a Home Office spokesperson said that the department was satisfied that it provides asylum seekers with an allowance that is ‘enough to meet essential needs’. Yeah. Right.
As well as being absolute bollocks (come on, do you really think you could live on - not just about survive on - £37.75 per week?), I’m willing to bet that the cost of period supplies was missing from these stingy estimations for ‘essential needs’.
Pads, tampons and pantyliners are absolutely essential and they ain’t cheap, and the number of asylum seekers, refugees and people who can’t afford them that Bloody Good Period provide to is ever increasing. In the first three weeks of 2018 alone we’ve given over 2,700 packs of period supplies to the drop-ins we support, and I sure as hell don’t anticipate this decreasing when the extra 80p kicks in next month.
With the allowance asylum seekers receive reviewed annually, perhaps 2018 will be the year that the review is led with compassion and culminates in an increase that allows asylum seekers to live with dignity. Because let’s face it, 80p extra is just not enough.