We are grateful to Jon Featonby at British Red Cross who has kindly shared the below update sent by the Home Office on the current position regarding asylum support:
Home Office update
During the period of contingency arrangements for COVID-19, Asylum Support have made the temporary changes as below.
Failed Asylum Seekers Anyone on S95 support who would ordinarily no longer be eligible to receive it because their asylum claim and any appeal is finally rejected, will be transferred on to S4 support. We are be issuing them with an appropriate letter informing them of this.
Refugees – Those on S95 or S4 who have received, or will in future receive, a positive immigration decision, will not now receive a letter asking them to leave their accommodation. We are developing an alternative letter that advises them that they can still apply for DWP benefits and of the assistance available to make the application. DWP has confirmed that applications can still be made and that they will be processed without the need for an interview and that advance payments are available. The letter will therefore advise them that their Home Office support payments will not continue after the normal 28 days period. However, we recognise that there may be circumstances where it will be appropriate to reinstate payments, for example where an application for DWP has been made but there have been delays in processing payments. These will be considered on a case by case basis.
Other discontinuations of S95/98/S4 support– The announcement of 27 March means that the only likely discontinuations of S4 or 95 support for the next 3 months are where the person is found to be no longer destitute or possibly in some other cases where there has been a serious breach of the relevant regulations. However, we expect any such cases to be very few. Any such decisions will be reviewed by our SCW team before they are made.
Refusals of applications for S95 support on grounds of non-destitution- If the person is in Initial Accommodation at the time of the decision, they will be able to remain there pending any appeal. We are liaising with HMCTS about the handling of appeals, which have also been impacted by COVID-19 contingency arrangements. Any potential refusal are being referred to managers and are being kept under review.
Reinstatements Some supported persons will have still been in Home Office accommodation at the time they received a “notice to quit” the accommodation. If they wish to have their support reinstated and have not already been contacted, they need to contact Migrant Help. [EXTRA NOTE FROM BRC – WE HAVE ALSO BEEN TOLD THAT SUPPORT ORGANISATIONS CAN CONTACT HELEN MASCURINE DIRECTLY TO ESCALATE REINSTATEMENTS]
Where the accommodation provider identifies the need for the reinstatement they can make the application to the HO (which is via Helen Mascurine email@example.com).
Temporary casework measures – In light of NHS England guidance we are not requiring providers to move people into new accommodation, unless the person is street homeless, there are other vulnerability factors or there is a court order requiring us to provide accommodation.
To help manage this position, asylum seekers who have applied for S95 support in the form of accommodation and subsistence may in some circumstances be offered temporary subsistence payments to cover their essential living needs in the accommodation they are occupying.
Temporary measures to relating to the consideration of applications for support – We will not generally expect Migrant Help to have had sight of original supporting documents provided with an applications. Migrant Help will be able to complete information to indicate they have seen copy documents.
As new birth certificates are not currently being issued, we will not expect applicants for maternity payments to produce them. A full birth certificate may be required at a later date once we return to normal arrangements.
We will be communicating wherever possible by email and will not routinely be sending communications by post.
Aspen payment cards – we’re are working with contractors to develop options to ensure essential provisions continue to reach those in need. [FURTHER NOTE FROM BRC – THE CONTRACT FOR PROVIDING ASPEN CARDS HAS BEEN EXTENDED, SO THE SWITCH TO A NEW PROVIDER WON’T HAPPEN AS PLANNED]