Inside Housing this week reports on the tragic case of the child of an asylum seeker who starved to death due to ‘significant problems’ in providing welfare services for the family.
In a chilling portent of what is to come for those with children whose benefits are sanctioned under the upcoming Universal Credit regime, the family had been forced to rely on ‘ad hoc’ charitable handouts. Increasing numbers of families are already dependent on food banks and charities to feed their children.
This case, whilst exceptional, highlights the very real poverty faced by those seeking asylum, despite the endless lurid headlines attacking benefit scrounging immigrants. Last year the government scrapped the funding for the Refugee Integration and Employment Service which provided support for those seeking asylum. The sad death took place before these changes,meaning the situation for refugees has got worse, not better since these cuts. Details of the cause of death have only now emerged due to a case review into the tragedy.
Under planned changes to benefits as part of the Universal Credit regime , families with children could face benefit sanctions of up to three years should parents fail to meet the requirements to actively seek work for 35 hours a week. Half a million sanctions were handed out to claimants without children last year under a similar regime.
Those who work with refugees have warned that more tragedies like the one highlighted by Inside Housing are likely unless more is done to improve support for refugees. With welfare reform about to plunge hundreds of thousands of vulnerable families into a similarly chaotic and inhumane system, it may not just be those seeking asylum whose tragic stories are told over the coming years.
A child starving to death in one of the richest countries in the world should be a wake up call to all those who are all too happy to condemn those with least to abject poverty. Whatever opinions about benefit claimants, asylum seekers or immigrants are spewed out by this vile government and their supporters, no child – whoever their parents are and wherever they came from – should go without food in the UK. Since this government of millionaires doesn’t seem to care, then it is down to all of us to ensure this sad waste of young life remains an exception and not the norm.