Child starved to death after benefits delay
- 05 Oct
The government has been warned it must urgently fix flaws in its support system for successful asylum seekers, after a destitute child starved to death in temporary accommodation in Westminster.
Family of three forced to ‘actually become homeless' for local authorities to offer help
Further tragedies are increasingly likely as more asylum claims are processed while support funding dries up, organisations claim.
Details of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of ‘child EG' and the unrelated death of his mother ‘Mrs G' surfaced in a serious case review and a letter sent to the government by child safety experts at Westminster Council, a flagship Conservative borough.
The case review found that the family had become dependent on ‘ad hoc' charitable handouts despite a successful asylum claim because of ‘significant problems' transferring the family from Home Office to mainstream welfare support services.
The family of three was forced to ‘actually become homeless' before local authorities could offer official help, it added.
The Westminster letter - sent last March but only released to Inside Housing this week - urges Home Office and Department for Work and Pensions officials to review and improve transitional support for successful asylum seekers. Terry Bamford wrote:
Joined up government should be able to manage the transition from one form of public support to another.
Asylum seeker charities this week warned of a deterioration in government support services in the 18 months since the letter was sent.
The Home Office axed its funding for Refugee Integration and Employment Service - which paid for transitional support for successful asylum seekers - last September, they point out.
Judith Dennis, policy officer at the Refugee Council, said the problems highlighted in the review were common.
Daoud Zaaroura, chief executive of the North of England Refugee Service, said the issues raised in Westminster's letter were unresolved:
Without RIES, or something similar, there is a real threat of the tragic case of EG happening all over again.
Dave Garratt, chief executive of Refugee Action, said the newly appointed immigration minister, Mark Harper, must ‘urgently address the shortfall in resourcing for these essential services':
We are deeply concerned that our caseworkers are seeing increasing numbers of recent refugees who are being forced onto the street.
James Thomas, director of family services at Westminster Council, said it had provided more details of the case to the Home Office at its request.
A spokesperson for the UK Border Agency said that they have already made several improvements to transitional arrangements:
- Organisations housing asylum seekers for the UKBA now have to notify local authorities when applications are successful
- Refugees can remain in UKBA-funded accommodation for one month after a decision.
- Funding is now given to voluntary groups which offer support and advice.
Source: Inside Housing
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Responding to the DWP Consultation: Housing Benefit Reform - Supported Housing "It was well-run, in a good location, and very useful. I've only one suggestion; as the session went on it would perhaps have been useful for bullet points of general agreement about what should be in the sector response to be displayed and added to as the session went on, maybe on a flip chart. Regarding your response paper, I particularly like the answer you give to question 9. In fact the general: "if it ain't broke don't fix it" response could be pushed harder." M.P. - Adref Ltd