MORE than 50 organisations from Scotland, Wales and England have slammed the Home Office for misrepresenting the scale of the cash card crisis that's left families without money for almost three weeks.

The Scottish and Welsh Refugee Councils are amongst the expert charities urging Priti Patel to "publicly acknowledge the full extent of the crisis" that's understood to have left thousands of people in the UK facing hunger.

The problem is the result of major issues with the debit cards given to asylum seekers under Home Office systems.

Around 55,000 people use the Aspen Cards, but problems with the switch-over to a new provider have left many desperate, charities report.

Prepaid Financial Services (PFS) took over the running of the £39.63-per-week cards from old firm Sodexo on May 21. Users were given short notice of the change and initially faced a weekend without funds.

Seven days later internal Home Office estimates suggested one-third of users had experienced problems with their new cards, according to Scottish charity Positive Action in Housing (PAIH).

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Now on June 10 it says "whole families are being left without money" despite assurances that emergency crisis payments would be distributed.

PAIH says charities are now in "a full-scale crisis" and hit out at the Home Office for "giving the impression that the Aspen Card crisis is a four-day glitch affecting a small number of people".

On Monday, Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft MP told the Public Accounts Committee: "There was an error on the card that did last for a short period of time, like for instance a weekend, but that has now been resolved."

But in a new letter, PAIH, the Scottish Refugee Council, the Welsh Refugee Council, Freedom From Torture and a host of legal practices have laid out the devastating impact of the cards cut-off in their areas.

In Glasgow, PAIH says it has dealt with 400 emergency cases since May 28 and the Scottish Refugee Council said it had been inundated with calls for help, telling Patel: "We fear some people will be starving in isolation, or worse."

In Wales, 560 people sought help from the Welsh Refugee Council.

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In Brighton, one charity reported how 100 people had either experienced problems activating new cards or not received them at all.

Stories have emerged in Glasgow of new mothers without supplies and families having their Aspen Cards rejected at supermarket checkouts due to technical glitches.

Problem cases have also emerged amongst the residents of the controversial Napier Barracks, where accommodation has failed to meet a minimum standards, according to the results of a court case brought against the Home Office by six of those held there.

The charities state: "We find it absolutely unacceptable that a government department that thinks people should be living on less than £40 a week (£8 for hotel dwellers) can't prioritise getting people access to that money."

They go on: "Small charities cannot continue to fill the gap caused by maladministration by the Home Office and its contractors."

And they tell Patel: "We do not see this crisis going away in the next few days. As Home Secretary it falls upon you to explain what has gone wrong and publicly admit the full extent of this crisis."

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A Home Office spokesperson said: "The vast majority of supported asylum seekers were able to activate their new Aspen cards prior to the service going live, or have managed to active them since.

"We are aware that a small number of asylum seekers are still facing difficulties using their cards. We are supporting them with emergency cash payments and vouchers, and are issuing replacement cards where required.

"Migrant Help remain available to respond to queries from asylum seekers and anyone experiencing issues can contact the 24/7 hotline."