take the Endurance Challenge

See if you can endure living as someone made destitute by the Government's policy for people seeking asylum.

People who come to the UK seeking asylum are not allowed to work while their application is processed. They receive a small allowance to live on, which is substantially lower than the benefits received by UK citizens. In 2009 this allowance was reduced still further, and the Government is considering cutting it again in 2010.

When someone’s application for asylum is refused, the Home Office allows them two weeks' notice to leave their accommodation, at which time the financial provision will also be stopped. This is despite often having no means to leave the country either by land, sea or air. Many feel that their good grounds for claiming asylum have been poorly represented or they simply fear returning to their home country, and so they are forced to begin to live a life of utter destitution.

It is at this stage that Government policy on immigration and asylum creates ‘Living Ghosts’. They are essentially airbrushed out of existence as ‘failed’ asylum-seekers, but they remain here and this reality goes unnoticed by society at large.

Some receive support in the form of a basic food parcel from destitution projects across the country. These are often facilitated through the goodwill and charity of faith and community groups working together with the British Red Cross.

Your Lent Endurance Challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to live the life of a person seeking or refused asylum for one week, in order to give you a small insight into how these people experience poverty in the UK.

What does the Lent Endurance Challenge involve?

If you intend to live as a person seeking asylum, you should live for one week on a budget of £35.13 for all food and travel.

If you intend to live as a person who has been refused asylum, you should exchange your weekly food budget for a food parcel and £3.50 in cash.

We suggest that you create an Endurance Journal - either on paper or as a blog - to record your week:

  • how you are managing;
  • mistakes you have made;
  • thoughts about those who do not have their own home, job and family to rely upon.

    We suggest in addition that you consider how much each of your household or lifestyle decisions is costing. Will your budget stretch to...

    • turning on the heating?
    • running the dishwasher?
    • using the phone or internet?
    • using the car?

    Do you really have to have that coffee? Do you need to buy that magazine or paper?  Do you really need that lunch out?

    There are reasons for this challenge being a test of ‘Endurance’!

    During the week consider how your normal lifestyle differs from that of a ‘Living Ghost’. Imagine that your house is no longer your own, but rather a place where you are receiving hospitality from the refugee community.

    • Could you afford to pay your host for your costs of the heating and other bills?

    • Where would you sleep?

    • Where would you cook your food?

    For this week all you will have to your name is a small allowance, or even just a food parcel and £3.50, but you are fortunate enough to have a place to sleep & use of cooking facilities.

    • People seeking asylum and ‘Living Ghosts’ are not allowed to work – but you are not expected to give up your job!

    • The challenge is about how you make decisions at work, at home, and consider how you would manage.

    • Also, if household bills have to be paid as a matter of urgency, then please do pay them!

    Having an impact

    • Please consider contacting your local newspaper about the Challenge - ask for the Features Editor. They may well be interested in publishing your Endurance Journal or interviewing you.
    • If you keep your Endurance Journal as a blog, we would love to share it with other asylum campaigners via our Facebook group and enewsletters. Just send us the address!
    • We can supply reflection material and other resources on asylum destitution, including case studies, prayers - and bags of encouragement, thanks and appreciation for taking up this challenge and being in solidarity with people seeking sanctuary. Visit the Living Ghosts web page or contact us to ask about resources.
    • If you are serious about taking the Challenge, you might want to write to your MP or the Home Office. Tell them what you're doing - and ask them to take part as well! The Home Office claim the allowance given to people seeking sanctuary is fair and adequate, but could they live on it themselves? Even if they don't agree to participate, at least they know that some people are serious about the issues.

    Church Action On Poverty, Unit 28 Sandpiper Court, Water’s Edge Business Park, Modwen Road, Salford M5 3EZ

    Telephone 0161 872 9294 or email info@church-poverty.org.uk

    Registered charity number 1079986. Company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales, number 3780243.

    Materials from our website may be reproduced elsewhere, subject to the Creative Commons Legal Code.

    Church Action on Poverty uses anonymous ‘cookie’ files to track visits to this website. Click here to read our cookie policy.