Urgent Christmas appeal for women and children
As Christmas and the school holidays are almost here, places for people, especially mothers and children, to get shelter, food and be safe and warm are becoming scarcer.
As many of you will know, each year Legal Action for Women organises a Christmas Appeal to help women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), the self-help group of women asylum seekers based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. This year women and their children need our support more than ever.
AAWG fortnightly meetings have grown to over almost 80 women. Around a third are destitute without any income at all. Others are surviving on National Asylum Support System which amounts to half of the poverty-line benefits that others get. For example, a single woman gets just £36 a week (compared to £73.10 Job Seekerrs Allowance) and a mother and child get £73 a week (compared to £157.74). Money for the children of asylum seekers was cut by 30% in 2015.
Hearing what people are having to do to survive is heart-rending. Many women are living with other people and helping out in exchange for a roof over their head and food. One woman described how she has to be out in the cold all day and has no key so has to wait outside until the people she lives with come home. A few women have described being dependent on men who then expect sex in exchange. One woman was in tears as she described how she got no money for travel including to take her child to school. Any independent money women can get is a relief from this dependency which is why our Christmas appeal is so important.
You may know that food banks that are now used by 1,109,309 people a year (thousands of them children) only allow people to get food on six times within a year for themselves and their children. Some other drop-ins only pay £5 fare so if the actual fare is more than that, women can’t get there. (Fares for the last AAWG fortnightly meeting came to over £800 and we raise money for that separately).
We appreciate that we are asking you to donate when many of you will be struggling with higher rents, food costs and energy bills, among other things. But the money we raise makes such a massive difference largely because we ensure that every penny goes directly to women in need. None of it is deducted for admin costs. Last year people were extremely generous and we were able to give 50 women a one-off payment which brought them up to the amount they would get in one week if they were on benefit. We always work together to distribute the money raised. We are delighted to say that the private benefactor who matched what was raised last year, will do so again this year, doubling any donation you make.
We are soon launching an End Destitution, End Detention campaign which among other things will highlight how the government policy of destitution which started with people seeking asylum has now been extended to others, in the form of benefit sanctions. This searing injustice has been brought to public attention by the film I, Daniel Blake. We’ll be in touch about this soon.
Some women, despite living with trauma and surviving extreme poverty, have joined volunteer sessions to fight their own cases and help others. Women take calls from women in detention and provide support using LAW’s Self-Help Asylum Guide and other self-help tools developed with Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape.
This work, along with other campaigning, has resulted in some lovely victories — 23 women have won the right to stay including two victims of trafficking, 16 women have got out of detention and many have found lawyers to represent them – a scarce resource in these times of legal aid cuts.
We very much hope that you will be able to help and wish you the best for the holiday season,
How to donate:
1. Go to Crossroadswomen.net and click the donate button. Please add “Christmas Appeal” when asked for reference. The asylum appeal is administered on our behalf by the charity Crossroads Women. All donations are gift-aided.
2. Money transfer to our account: Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number 50728361, sort code 086001. If donating online or direct into our account, we would appreciate an email to let us know.
3. By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the Christmas Appeal.
If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated. They can be delivered any weekday before 17 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town (25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX).