Medical Foundation responds to Jack Straw's assurance about toys for children of asylum seekers
The Home Secretary has given an assurance that the Government will not deduct from asylum seekers' allowance the value of toys that charities provide for their children. The problem remains that the Government defines toys as not an "essential living need".
The Medical Foundation believes that this statement is in violation of the UK's obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 31 of the Convention enshrines the child's right to play, and Article 39 provides that States must take all appropriate measures to promote the recovery of child survivors of torture "in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child". That the Government's new and mean support system fails to do so is starkly obvious with its failure to provide toys for asylum seeker children.
Furthermore, the Medical Foundation, as a charity, provides other non-cash items to asylum seekers, including food and blankets, and items that must be bought for cash: transport to visit our doctors, school uniforms where uniform is mandatory, physical aids such as orthopaedic equipment or eye-glasses where NHS equipment or spectacles will not suffice.
Whether charities are allowed to give these items without diminishing the asylum seeker's meagre allowance remains in doubt. We seek further assurances that the Government will not violate the fundamental principle of the independence of charities to assess need and give assistance accordingly.
Our appeal for people to send toys to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) has succeeded where many months of requests for clarification during the passage of the Immigration and Asylum Act had failed, in getting the first clarification of the Government's policy towards what support asylum applicants can receive from charities without it affecting their destitute status. We await hopefully further clarifications.