Destitute asylum seekers in Scotland to lose safety net when Destitution Grants programme is suspended

The Refugee Survival Trust, a small Scottish charity supporting asylum seekers and refugees, has today written to its partners to inform them that after many years of continuous operation, it will most likely be forced to suspend applications to its Destitution Grants programme at the end of the month.

RST’s Destitution Grants programme provides small one-off payments to asylum seekers and refugees who do not receive support from the government or other sources and are at real risk of destitution. The grants are given only as a last resort, and can be the difference between someone having somewhere to stay and sleeping rough; eating properly and begging for help. They offer brief respite from shocking hardship and emotional stress.

The destitution grant rates are normally £36 per week for adults (just below the current level of government support for asylum seekers – £37.75 per week) for a maximum of two weeks. Around a quarter of the emergency destitution grants are for travel, because under current asylum procedure in the UK, all new applications for asylum have to be made in Croydon, whilst all extra paperwork and fresh claims have to be submitted in Liverpool.

Unfortunately, the asylum process in the UK is complex and inaccessible and there are many aspects of the current system put asylum seekers in Scotland at risk of destitution. For example:

  • Asylum seekers are not allowed to work and receive only Home Office asylum support (about 70% of mainstream benefits), which is often delayed by bureaucracy.
  • Once granted refugee status there is a 28 day period before support stops and mainstream benefits apply, but bureaucratic delays mean that refugees are often left without financial support for weeks or even months

Over the past few years, the Refugee Survival Trust, which has fewer than 5 FTE staff, has seen unprecedented increase in demand for Destitution Grants. In the past 12 months, it has distributed more than £130,000 of small emergency grants, compared to £65,000 just two years ago. The vast majority of applications were in the Greater Glasgow area.

Coordinator of the Refugee Survival Trust Zoe Holliday says: “I am deeply saddened to have had to write to our partners today to inform them of the likely suspension of our destitution grants programme.

“We now have less than one months’ reserves in our bank account, and so unless we are able to lever in significant funding over the next few weeks, it is very likely that the fund will be suspended at the end of August.

“Refugee Survival Trust Destitution Grants are such an important safety net to thousands of the most vulnerable people in Scotland every year, including those who are affected by the Serco eviction notices in the news this week.

“Our grants are always given as a last resort, when no other support is available to the asylum seeker in question. It does not bear thinking about what compromising situations these individuals and families may be forced into, without this important safety net.

Anyone who is able to support RST’s Destitution Grant fund can donate at The Destitution Grants programme will remain open to applications for as long as there is funding available and 100% of all donations will go directly to asylum seekers and refugees in the form of small grants and bus passes.

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