To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate she has made of the number of people who were entitled to receive asylum support that did not have a functioning Aspen card on (a) Monday 24 May, (b) Friday 28 May and (c) Friday 4 June 2021.
This answer is the replacement for a previous holding answer.
25 June 2021
Emergency cash payments (ECPs) are a longstanding operational contingency provision in place for several years.
ECPs have been used to support service users who had issues with their Aspen card over the transition period. All accommodation providers have been instructed to ensure ECPs are provided to those in critical need of support during this period. Their use has been further adapted to meet the demand and remove barriers to authorisation which allow swift deployment.
Those who have issues or are unsure how they can activate their cards are able to contact the 24/7 Migrant Help helpline. There was an initial spike in relation to the volume of calls during the first week after going live, however the number of calls to Migrant Help has since reduced. Migrant Help also maintained the availability of their webchat and the Raise and Issue communication channels.
Migrant Help increased staffing numbers to support service users in the weeks ahead of the new service going live and thereafter during the transition. Additionally, during the transition to the new payment provider, there was an out of hours operational team working alongside Migrant Help to ensure ECPs could be provided to those who required a payment. Migrant Help continue to be the first point of contact to support service users in relation to any issues faced regarding asylum support.
Fully functioning Aspen cards, including translated instructions on how to activate them, were distributed to all service users via first class post prior to the transition date of 24 May. The majority of eligible card holders had completed this activation process by 24 May and have had access to funds via their card.
However, some card holders had yet to successfully activate their card by this date. As part of the transition of services we are working with our new card service supplier PFS to enhance data and understand the reasons behind the residual cards which are yet to be activated.
In addition, our accommodation and advice service providers are working closely to target support to all such service users to encourage and assist with those who are still yet to activate their cards. This includes ensuring subsistence support remains available through access to Emergency Cash Payments where appropriate and replacement cards are issued where delivery problems are reported to us.
It is not currently possible therefore to provide an accurate breakdown of the reasons some cards have not been activated or what proportion of this is due to a delivery issue.
Our latest available management information suggests the following approximations for the activation of cards:
- As of 28/05 – approximately 73% of service users has activated their card
- As of 04/06 – this figure rose to approximately 83%
- As of 22/06 –over 93% of service users had activated their new Aspen card
It should be noted these figures have been taken from a live operational database and have not been quality assured to National Statistics or Official Statistics publication standard.
We continue to work with strategic delivery partners to ensure all cards are successfully received and activated with the appropriate service users being targeted for assistance.