Overview of Maternity Rights and Benefits
If you are an asylum seeker in the UK and are currently pregnant, you should understand the financial and housing support available, as well as healthcare and psychological assistance for those who may require it following the circumstances that have led to the claim for asylum.
Navigating through the asylum process in the UK can be legally complicated, especially while being pregnant or raising newborn children at the same time. There will be unique hurdles and complications at each step that may be too difficult to manage without extra support.
Rest assured there is a range of maternity care available that will provide appointments for a range of services needed for expectant mothers.
In addition, it is important to understand your working rights as an asylum seeker and mother in order to take better consideration of the types of challenges that will be faced while claiming for asylum in the UK. Your access to education and other non-government support systems is equally vital and should be carefully understood.
Section 95 Support
The financial support, available to be applied for by anyone claiming for asylum, is provided by the Home Office under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
This will be a weekly subsistence allowance of £47.39 per person (including each child) to be spent on essential living requirements such as food, transport, toiletries, and medicine, though it is important to note that you will also be entitled to additional support from the NHS including maternity care.
An additional £3 per week per child is given to pregnant mothers and those with children aged between 12 and 36 months, with a £5 allowance provided for each baby under the age of 12 months.
A one-time maternity grant of £300 is available to be claimed per child which must be applied for within the 8 weeks leading up to the due date or up to 6 weeks following the birth, even if the baby was born outside the UK. You must contact the Home Office with proof of your pregnancy in order to claim additional maternity support.
The weekly payments will be received through an Aspen card which you may use to withdraw funds with at a cash machine or bank.
Section 95 support also requires the Home Office to provide accommodation to those who require it, though some people may find themselves placed in full-board hotel accommodation, in which case your section 95 allowance will only be £9.58 per week.
Section 98 Support
As the application period for section 95 support can take up to a number of weeks, potentially even months, emergency housing support is provided under section 98 support for those able to prove they are destitute as well as a £5 per day allowance.
It is important to understand the quality of emergency accommodation provided by section 98 support can vary substantially from one case to another, and some residencies have been reported to be substandard or unsanitary.
As asylum seekers do not have the right to rent private property until they gain refugee status, you will not be able to choose another accommodation if the one you have been provided with does not meet your expectations, though this will not be the case with every family claiming asylum and you will still be guaranteed
If your claim for asylum is denied while receiving section 98 or 95 support, you will be able to claim for section 4 support which continues to provide housing and financial support until you are able to safely leave the country. For pregnant mothers, this may be determined to be after the birth of the child.
Mental Health Care
There are many non-government organisations and charities that will offer mental health support for asylum seekers, refugees, and pregnant mothers who require additional support after escaping persecution or violence.
Such organisations include Refugee Council, Barnardo’s, and the NHS that can offer maternal psychological care.
Each support group will offer different specialised programs tailored to particular issues, and it is recommended to find the right group for the type of support you require. Many will offer services that include individual counselling, group therapy, and workshops for your own unique circumstances to be addressed within in the most culturally sensitive manner.
They will often collaborate with healthcare professionals to ensure that you are referred to the exact type of medical help you require. Mental health is directly tied to physical health, which is why it is very important to address the psychological conditions you and your family have found yourself in when arriving in the UK.
Support workers will be available to refer you to emergency support you require, such as shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
NHS Maternity Care
For asylum seekers and refugees, the National Health Service (NHS) offers free full access to primary healthcare, and potentially secondary in some cases, including antenatal care and appointments to check the health of your baby.
These appointments will include such maternity services as ultrasound scans, antenatal screening tests for potential conditions, blood tests, and other screening examinations for possible diseases that may be harmful to the health of you or your baby.
Postnatal care will also be made available, including routine vaccinations and check up appointments, as well as interpretation services to prevent a language barrier from diminishing the quality of health care you could receive.
In addition, antenatal classes may be offered by the NHS to safely demonstrate and educate components of motherhood such as breastfeeding.
As mentioned, maternal mental health care is offered by the NHS and may be utilised to treat the repercussions of adverse experiences that may have been endured by a woman prior the need to seek asylum, such as female genital mutilation, forced abortions, post traumatic stress disorder, or any other anxieties arrising from their current situation claiming for asylum, coupled with the impending responsibilities of motherhood.
It is important to understand that women seeking asylum are at a higher risk of perinatal outcomes and other complications arising from pregnancy and giving birth, and it is vital to be aware of the medical support you have available in order to maintain the health of you and your child.
Maternity and Parental Rights at Work
Typically, until granted refugee status upon the acceptance of an asylum claim, it is not permitted for an asylum seeker to be employed unless they have been waiting for more than 12 months for their application to be responded to.
If you have been granted permission to work, you will be able to take advantage of the same maternity leave and pay rights as any other UK citizen, so long as you meet the usual eligibility requirements.
Statutory Maternity Leave entitles a mother up to 52 weeks of time to spend recovering from childbirth as well as bonding with her baby. The first 26 weeks are termed ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ which entitles usual employment rights as well as returning to the same job role at the end of that period. You are required to take a leave of at least 2 weeks.
An additional optional 26 weeks under ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ can be undertaken. You may not receive the same benefits if this extra time off work is taken.
Statutory Maternity Pay can be provided for eligible workers for up to 39 weeks, with up to 90% of average weekly earnings being received for the first 6 weeks. The rate will fall for the next 33 weeks. To meet the eligibility criteria, you must have been working for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
You may also receive additional support through Occupational Maternity Pay, offered at the discretion of an employer, or Maternity Allowance for those who do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay but have worked at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks prior to childbirth.
If, while you are receiving maternity leave, your claim for asylum is rejected, and thus you lose the right to work in the UK, your term of leave will also come to an end, though if you are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay this will continue for the full 39 week term.
It is worth understanding that fathers also may be able to claim paternity leave and pay following the birth if they meet the eligibility requirements.
You will have many rights as a worker which makes it difficult to understand when you may be exploited or unfairly treated in the workplace, not to mention you may run into hurdles when trying to prove to the Home Office and employers the status of your pregnancy in order to receive relevant benefits.
For further assistance please contact Manchester Immigration Lawyers at 0161 826 9783.
Full time public education in the UK is available to every child as a key right they are entitled to, including for the children of asylum seekers and those with refugee status. The opportunities offered by a robust education system made accessible to any child are an indispensable component of settling into a new and fulfilling life.
This will help foster a deeper understanding of British culture and the language which should help with integration into the wider British community.
Children of asylum seekers between 5 and 18 will be required to attend school, though certain benefits such as claiming free school meals and extra support in class may be made available to provide assistance for struggling families.
Language classes may be made available for asylum seekers of all ages to develop their communication skills, which will be a tremendous help regarding finding the optimal amount of support from healthcare and legal professionals, as well as wider society.
University fees may be charged at an international rate for those seeking to undertake a course of higher learning after turning 18 who have not yet gained refugee status, which would entitle being charged at a domestic rate of no higher than £9,250 per year.
Despite this, asylum seekers may still be able to apply for scholarships and grants to assist with the endeavour of earning a degree.
There are a variety of support networks and non-government organisations that can offer additional help to pregnant asylum seekers.
- Maternity Action can offer free advice to pregnant asylum seekers, reachable on 020 7253 2288.
- Migrant Help UK is a general helpline for migrants that can be reached on 0808 8010 503.
- Refugee Council aims to connect asylum seekers and refugees to services that will help them, contactable in England only by 0808 196 7272.
Many more helplines can be found on the Asylum Support Appeals Project website.
If you require extra assistance with your claim for asylum, including your application or appeal for section 95 support while navigating the intricacies of pregnancy or motherhood, Manchester Immigration Lawyers have an experienced team of immigration lawyers and specialists on hand ready to offer legal support and find mental health support to those who need it.
Claiming such benefits as Statutory Maternity Pay as an asylum seeker requires extra documentation and proof that makes the process harder than it otherwise would be, and it is important to ensure every detail is correct when submitting any application. We can help with checking over any and all documents to make sure your applications are responded to as timely as possible.
Our team can help with detained casework, family reunion applications, and any other legal immigration services that may be applicable to your own personal circumstances.
Contact Manchester Immigration Lawyers today at 0161 826 9783 or contact us online.
Last modified on November 3rd, 2023 at 4:49 pm
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It is possible for a pregnant woman to be deported depending on a number of factors including immigration status.
It is important to understand that deportation may be challenged if, for example, deporting a pregnant mother would cause significant disruption to a family or to the wellbeing of the infant.
Pregnant asylum seekers typically will not be deported, as even in the case of a rejected asylum claim you may still be able to claim section 4 support which provides financial help and housing until you are able to leave the country safely.
Aside from maternity care, other healthcare benefits may potentially include free prescriptions from a General Practitioner (GP) for certain medication, dental care, eye tests, and emergency services.
Even if your asylum claim is rejected, you will still be able to use primary health services, though your level of access to free care may not be as comprehensive as those with refugee status.
A recent development you should be aware of is the Illegal Migration Bill, which increases the likelihood of deportation for anyone found entering the UK via illegal avenues or a safe third country. For asylum seekers this introduces an extra series of hurdles and pressures to navigate, which is why professional legal help is recommended.
The UK allows in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers each year, though you should still be aware of the ramifications of this recent change in law, as well as recent details of hotels for migrants being shut down by the Home Office.
It is possible to be detained upon entering the country illegally, though the law that pregnant mothers must be released within 72 hours of detention, introduced in 2016, is maintained with the recent Illegal Migration Bill.