There are 5,900 children in England and Wales living on the brink of total destitution because their parents cannot work or receive government benefits, according to research from The University of Oxford’s migration unit. Charities say the situation is pushing vulnerable children into “severe poverty and hunger.” In almost a quarter of the families affected at least one child is a British citizen, researchers from Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) found. Some go for months without receiving any help at all, forced to sleep in cars, disused buildings or even on the street.
Long delays at the Home Office mean decisions in immigration cases can often take years. Migrant families waiting to find out their immigration status are not given support by the Home Office unless they are asylum-seekers. They are also barred from working, which, if the wait takes several years, means they can quickly slip into poverty. If children are destitute, local authorities are obliged to help regardless of the parents’ immigration status as part of their responsibilities under the Children’s Act. However, with no government funds for this help - or guidelines on the appropriate amount - many set the rates as perilously low as £1 a day per family member. Since councils’ budgets have been significantly cut back by central Government, these payments are frequently far below the necessary amount to live on. Payments typically range from £23 to £35 per child per week but this money has to feed parents too. If a family receives help from a foodbank the value of this is often deducted from the meagre council help, leaving them with just a few pounds a week for nappies and other essentials.