Aspen card does not give asylum seekers £175 a week

31 January 2023
What was claimed

Every illegal immigrant receives a payment card loaded with £175, which is renewed weekly, in addition to free meals a day.

Our verdict

Payment cards currently worth £40.85 a week are given to eligible asylum seekers who cannot afford food. Those who receive free meals receive much less money.

A post being shared on Facebook includes a screenshot claiming that “every illegal immigrant” receives a payment card “pre-loaded with £175.00 (renewed weekly by the Home Office)”. It also claims that this is “free spending money, on top of their 3 free meals a day”.

These claims are not correct.

It is true that some asylum seekers, some of whom may have entered the UK illegally, receive a payment card from the Home Office.

However, it is not true that every asylum seeker receives one, nor that they receive £175 each week (this is more like the monthly figure), nor that this money is provided in addition to free meals.

We’ve written about a similar false claim before.

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How the ‘Aspen’ card works

People seeking asylum are not able to claim normal benefits and are usually not allowed to work while their case is considered.

The payment card pictured in this Facebook post is known as an Asylum Support Enablement or ‘Aspen’ card. It is given to asylum seekers who are deemed to be destitute, because they are homeless or do not have money to buy food.

But rather than £175 per week, as the Facebook post claims, the Aspen card currently includes a weekly payment of £40.85 for each person in the household.

Government guidance states that the payment is given to help people buy the things they need, such as “food, clothing and toiletries”.

The Facebook post also claims this money is given in addition to free meals, but asylum seekers who are housed in accommodation where they receive meals are given an Aspen card with a much smaller amount of money for other essentials. This payment was £8.24 per week in the year from September 2021.

Women who are pregnant or the mothers of young children can receive a further £3-5 per week.

School-age children must attend school, where they may be able to receive free school meals.

Asylum seekers can apply for additional support in exceptional circumstances.

Image courtesy of Niklas Weiss

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