Manchester Azure Card Shopping Buddy Scheme
The Azure Card replaced the voucher system for the provision of weekly funds to asylum seekers in the UK. They greatly restrict both where and on what people can spend their money, which used to be capped at £35 per week but which has recently been lifted*. They also prevent asylum seekers from saving money and does not allow the cardholder to withdraw cash even for essential items which the card cannot be used for, i.e. a bus pass to get to a Home Office appointment. Other problems people report facing with these cards include stigmatisation, including humiliating treatment from cashiers and members of the public, and having their money unfairly reduced by the Home Office without warning. There have also been many reports of the card not working at all and card users have to go home without food. The Azure Card system plays a central role in restricting and destabilising the lives of asylum seekers in the UK.
This Guardian article was published 4 years ago but a lot of the complaints still occur.
The idea behind the scheme is to give card users support when they go shopping, monitoring the behaviour of stores towards card users and helping out when problems arise.
If you are either an Azure Card user or would like to volunteer as a buddy please contact us with the days, times and places you will be regularly available. We will try to pair people up as best we can and then introduce you to each other (in person if you prefer). Please fill in the contact form below and we will get in touch.
*N.B. The cap was removed in February 2015 which helps in the short-term. However this still does not rid the cardholder of how restrictive the card can be in terms of where they are allowed to shop and which items. Moreover it doesn’t remove the stigma of having to use the card and does not allow the person to have the responsibility and independence of managing their own finances.