Lord Roger Roberts writes…A step towards abolishing the Azure Card

Azure cardLast November I wrote that we must abolish the Azure Card and secured a debate in the House of Lords to that effect.

For those who may be unaware, The Azure Card is a prepayment card provided destitute asylum seekers who require support because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom. It is a discriminatory and wholly inadequate system of support which the Red Cross – as well as many other refugee organisations have called to be abolished.

Azure card Features

– £35 per week
– Can only be used in 14 shops
– No ability to save: money over £5 left at the end of the week is removed from the card.
– Technical problems can leave users without food for days
– Only £3 extra p/w for pregnant mothers
– No access to transportation

In the debate, I called for a cash based system which provides enough to meet basic needs and for the right to work after 6 months in order to end the current cycle of poverty, hopelessness and destitution. The government declined to replace the Azure Card with a cash payment system but did make a number of important concessions which will alleviate the suffering of card users. These included;

  1.  Abolishing the cards punitive carry-over limit
  2.  Making it easier to access transport
  3. Making efforts to expand the number of retailers

I am happy to say that the first of these promised changes has now come into effect.

From yesterday, thanks to the Liberal Democrats, over 4000 of the most vulnerable people in society – 90% of whom had been reported to be regularly missing meals – will no longer have to worry about having what little remains of their £35 p/w allowance recovered from the card at the end of the week. This is a major change which will do much to lessen humanitarian suffering.

Unfortunately, we have had not yet had such good progress on other areas. Accessing transport has not yet been made any easier and the government have, as yet,  been unable to persuade any new retailers to join the scheme. Worse still, they have refused even to set a target for the number that should!

We must continue to ask whether the Azure card is the best way to support people in this position. The card was only intended to be a temporary form of support but the government’s own figures show that 4395 people who are currently on this ‘temporary’ support have been so in excess of 6 months.

As a next step, I have therefore asked the government whether they will consider introducing a time limit that someone can be on the Azure card- after which they should be returned to a cash based system.

We can, we should, and we must do better.

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

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12 Comments

  • We should all say thank you to Roger Roberts for highlighting this.

    It is yet another dark shameful corner of life in the UK in 2015. People missing meals, going hungry on £35 a week whilst bankers and fund managers pay themselves annual sums larger than most of us can earn in a lifetime.

    As Roger Roberts says –“. We can, we should, and we must do better.”

  • My view Asylum Rules says people should seek asylum in nearest safe country NOT travel thousands of miles to our shores. We should have far less asylum seekers than we get

  • Malcolm Todd 3rd Mar '15 - 10:43am

    Well said Roger Roberts. 100% good work.

  • Very best wishes to you in your campaigning, one of the most worthy causes written about on LDV.

  • Julian Tisi 3rd Mar '15 - 11:31am

    What John Tilley says.

    Well done Lord Roberts for highlighting this.

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Mar '15 - 1:36pm

    @John Tilley “It is yet another dark shameful corner of life in the UK in 2015. People missing meals, going hungry on £35 a week whilst bankers and fund managers pay themselves annual sums larger than most of us can earn in a lifetime.”
    Happily the 60.8% tax and NI on the bonuses of the bankers helps pay the (far too low) money that goes to the asylum seekers.
    The alternative would be to pay them less bonuses – more profit for shareholders – less tax for the UK to spend on asylum seekers

  • Stephen Donnelly 3rd Mar '15 - 3:09pm

    Simon there may be other alternatives. Such a concentration of wealth is not a natural outcome of a free market.

  • Simon McGrath 3rd Mar '15 - 3:18pm

    @stephen – not sure what point you are making.

  • Philip Thomas 3rd Mar '15 - 8:34pm

    @tez The fact that those fleeing persecution do not stop in the first country they come is not a sign that they are not genuine refugees. History is full of examples of genuine refugees who travelled a very long way from their country of persecution. By way of analogy, if your house is on fire, sometimes you want to flee all the way to the fire station and not stop in the house of your neighbour.

    As a separate issue, under the law, it may be possible for some people who seek asylum in the UK to be moved to a country they passed through en route for that country to process them (through the Dublin Convention): but while that decision to move them is being made they still have to be provided for.

    Of course, if the Home Office simply let asylum seekers work, this would be much less of an issue.

  • Roger has been doing excellent work in this area. What is shameful is the lack of coverage any of it gets in the mainstream media. We should as a party be working to rectify that.

  • matt (Bristol) 4th Mar '15 - 3:32pm

    All power to the elbow of Lord Roger Roberts.

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