New report – Surviving in Poverty

Asylum Matters has published a new report which reveals the devastating impact of living on asylum support and the effect of the rising cost of living.

“Surviving in Poverty: a report documenting life on asylum support” contains the results of a survey of over 300 people seeking asylum which shows how they face a continuous struggle to meet their most fundamental needs. This includes being unable to afford food, clothes, toiletries and public transport.

Deprived of the right to work, the report shows that the rising cost of living has pushed people seeking asylum further into poverty. Compared to a similar survey we did in 2020, people are facing even tougher decisions on whether they can afford the basic essentials.

The key findings from our report include:

  • 91% don’t always have enough money to buy food
  • 75% can’t always afford the medicines they need
  • 85% struggle to afford the cleaning products they need
  • 97% experience difficulties affording the clothes they need
  • 65% face challenges affording the toiletries they need
  • 95% can’t always afford to travel where they need to by public transport
  • 88% don’t always have the data and phone credit they need
  • 83% say asylum support payments aren’t enough to cover the rise in the cost of living.

Asylum support is £47.39 per week or just £9.58 a week for people living in a hotel. This amount needs to cover all essential living costs, like food and drink, clothing, toiletries, household cleaning items, everyday medication, travel, and phone and internet. For families, they also need to pay for school uniforms, nappies and items like baby formula.

People are forced to live on this support for months while they wait for a decision on their asylum claim. At the end of September 2023, there were over 90,000 cases waiting more than six months for an initial decision.

People who answered our survey said:

“My weekly allowance is barely enough to get me food for the week, so when it is time to buy toiletries, my food reduces.”

“My baby is growing up very fast and the clothes are too small.”

“I just buy potatoes and almost eat the same for long periods of time.”

“Most weeks the financial support runs out in the middle of the week, and we complete the week without a single pound available to the family.”

“Staying in a period of five years in that condition creates a huge impact on your mental and emotional health. You see yourself as a parasite and a prisoner.”

This situation and the harsh reality of trying to live on asylum support underscores an urgent need to reform asylum support and the asylum system, including the right to work. We want people to have the chance to rebuild their lives in the UK.

We recommend that:

  • The Home Office must further increase rates of asylum support to allow individuals and families to meet their essential living needs
  • The Home Office must ensure that the methodology for setting asylum support rates is fit for purpose and should reflect the real-life experiences of people seeking asylum.
  • People seeking asylum should have the right to work after six months of waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List
  • Free bus travel should be made available for people seeking asylum on a UK-wide basis, as is currently the case in Scotland.

You can read the full report and what people on asylum support had to say here.

We would like to thank all those who supported us in this, especially the many people who completed the survey.





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