Could you live on £36.95 per week and retain your dignity?

The basic annual salary for an MP is £74,000. If you include the severance package this gives an effective annual salary of £86,000 not including office expenses and allowances. Many MPs receive a supplementary salary for their specific responsibilities (ministers, the Speaker etc). This is the equivalent of at least £1,653.85 per week.

High Court judges earn £174,481, which is the equivalent of £3355.40 per week.

high court judge

Yet a High Court judge has decided that £36.95 is sufficient for asylum seekers to live a dignified life.


Unable to work while their claims are being processed, asylum seekers have no option but to rely on asylum support.

Asylum seekers and their dependents who are destitute are supported by the Home Office under the provisions of Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The support package generally consists of accommodation and a cash allowance. The cash allowance is designed to meet “essential living needs” as specified in Section 96(1)(b) of the 1999 Act which are not covered elsewhere (for example, housing and utility costs are also provided).

In June 2013 the Home Office reviewed the level of cash payments but they concluded that the payment levels were sufficient to meet essential living needs and they would therefore remain unchanged at £36.95 per week for a single adult. Refugee Action challenged this decision in the High Court.

In 2014 a High Court judge ruled that Theresa May (then Home Secretary) was “irrational” in her decision-making and “misunderstood information” when setting the level of financial support paid to people seeking asylum.

theresa may

The subsequent Home Office review, using data published by the Office of National Statistics relating to household expenditure of the lowest 10% income group among the UK population, concluded that the levels of cash support should remain unchanged, after some adjustments were made.

The weekly expenditure breaks down as follows:

Food and non-alcoholic drinks £24.91
Clothing and footwear £ 2.62
Toiletries £ 1.13
Healthcare £ 0.57
Household cleaning items £ 0.96
Travel (bus and train) £ 3.13
Telephone and post £ 3.13
Total £36.45

From 10 August 2015 the Home Office introduced a flat rate of support that meant a reduction of up to 30% for some families compared to the previous rates. All destitute asylum seekers were forced to live on £36.95 a week.

Examples of the changes were as follows:

  • A single parent with one child used to receive £96.90. Instead, they now receive £73.90 a week;
  • A single parent with two children used to receive £149.86. Instead, they now receive £110.85 a week;
  • A couple with one child used to receive £125.48. Instead, they now receive £110.85 a week.
  • A couple with two children used to receive £178.44. Instead, they now receive £147.80 a week.

In a judgement dated 24 October 2016 a High Court judge ruled that asylum support of £36.95 per week is enough to provide a dignified standard of living for asylum seekers, dismissing claims that the support rate is inadequate and breaches the EU’s Reception Directive.

Dignity for asylum seekers





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