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New ASPEN card update 7th June 2021

  1. The HO has issued a lot of replacement cards to people on support.  Approx. 6,000. This is an effort to try and correct the missing cards/  cards sent to the wrong address.  There was an acknowledgement that this might cause further problems/ confusion but the HO has made the decision that they needed to take this step to try and get cards to more people.
  2. HO estimates that about two thirds of people on asylum support have their new card and have activated it.
  3. They are working with their partners to identify the ‘missing third’ who either don’t have a card or who haven’t activated it.  This is being done by piecing together info from MH, PFS and info coming on the escalation email.
  4. They have done a lot of work (particularly in the last 24 hrs and in advance of this long weekend) in working with the accommodation providers to instruct them to proactively contact people on support in their areas who the HO believe don’t have cards /  haven’t been able to access them.  They are providing lists of people that they believe need support and help to accommodation providers. They’ve issued instructions to the accommodation providers around trouble-shooting issues with the card and the expectation is that the housing officers should be helping people with these problems. We highlighted the importance of the HO making sure all accommodation providers and their housing officers are aware of their proactive duty on this.
  5. They have cut out some of the bureaucracy surrounding the ECP approval process and are asking accommodation providers to issue these urgently when someone on support contacts them in need/ they become aware of someone who needs support.  They are able to do this without having to get prior authorisation from the HO. They have increased stocks of vouchers to the accommodation providers and, as you are probably aware, vouchers to the value of £40 are now being issued.
  6. The issue of someone people being in need of cash to travel (i.e to shops to buy essentials) was raised  and the HO recognised this and said that some cash payments should be being made if needed.
  7. The HO confirmed that people who have cards but have been unable to activate them (as opposed to not having a card at all) should apply for ECPs and these will be authorised. This is a change from earlier in the week.
  8. People on subs only should also request ECPs if they are having card issues. The HO recognised the difficulty that this group will have in raising their problems as they may struggle to get through on the MH phone lines and won’t have a housing officer to contact and/or who will contact them. HO stated that if people on subs only are able to contact them via MH, or an agency contacts the escalation email on their behalf, they will ask local housing officers to deliver the ECP and/or find another way to issue it urgently.
  9. They continue to ask the vol sector to use the escalation email:  [email protected]  when asking for an ECP for someone and/or raising other ASPEN issues.  This email will be staffed and responsive to emails through the bank holiday weekend.
  10. We have asked for further updated HO comms on the ECP process . Not clear when this will be issued but we highlighted the need for up to date and clear info on this.
  11. The lack of clarity for people in hotels around cards and ECPs was raised and the HO said that they would take this point away and come back to us with guidance.
  12. We talked about people’s fear of being asked to pay back money received via ECPs in the future and requested that this should not happen, bearing in mind the crisis situation that many people have suffered this week.  HO staff on the calls said they would pass this on to senior colleagues. This is something that we will come back to in future meetings.

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