On Thursday, catastrophe struck – my shoe fell apart. As in, completely disintegrated, without any warning, whilst I was out in town. Whilst my socked foot was delighted to catch its first glimpses of Hackney, this was a tad inconvenient to say the least. I was actually incredibly fortunate – this spontaneous combustion took place only a 15 minute walk from my house. So, after an awkward hobble home, accompanied by a great number of incredulous glares from passersby, I quickly put on another, more robust, pair of shoes and went on my merry way once more.
But what if I hadn’t been that close to home? What if I had been an hour away? Or two? I have roughly 8 pounds to last me the rest of the week – do I really want to spend of that on a pair of shoes that, let’s be honest, would probably meet a similar fate as that of their recently deceased plimsoled comrade?
This is one crucial problem with the asylum seeker grant in its current form; it leaves little/no room for the spontaneity and the catastrophes of life. Sure, it isn’t everyday that your shoe falls apart; but sometimes, you might get caught in heavy rain without an umbrella, or suddenly feel unwell and need over the counter-medicine, or perhaps your phone breaks or is stolen. All these things can and happen to people all the time.
Even beyond the realm of accidents and misfortunes, the asylum seeker grant does not allow for those once in a while purchases and needs, such as haircuts, new clothes, or even gifts for a friend’s birthday or as a token of appreciation or congratulations. Sure, you can survive without all of these things – split ends are hardly life-threatening (despite what horrified hairdressers might say), people will understand if you can’t afford gratitudinal gestures. But surely there should be more to their lives than just getting by? There should be room to live a fuller life, not one fully stripped down to the bare necessities.
Many of us will never truly experience what it is like to be an asylum-seeker; we will never walk a mile in their shoes. However, if we aren’t going to do such a trek ourselves, the least we can do is make sure they can replace any of their footwear that may get broken along the way.