United Kingdom

Country Report: Housing Last updated: 24/04/24


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The reception centres are designed for short term support, almost all residents will move to ‘dispersal accommodation’ in self-contained houses or apartments. This is known as ‘Section 95’ support (see Reception Conditions: Criteria and Restrictions).

On receipt of a decision to grant asylum or leave that would entitle the individual to work, apply for state welfare benefits and rent, buy or take on a public housing tenancy, , under law asylum support can be stopped 28 days after the decision.[1] This is often termed the ‘move on period’. People must be given a minimum of seven days’ notice that they are being evicted from their asylum accommodation.[2] In practice, as it was not possible to claim public funds without the biometric residence card that is issued as evidence of refugee status, the Home Office would only stop support 28 days or longer following receipt of the biometric residence permit.

In August 2023 the Home Office made a change in practice that was not publicly announced. They started counting the 28 days from the date of the decision instead of from receipt of the biometric residence permit. As in many cases the permit would take longer than 28 days to arrive, this meant that many refugees were made street homeless shortly after receiving their grant of refugee leave.[3] This change resulting in a 223% increase in people sleeping rough after leaving asylum housing.[4] Towards the end of 2023 an internal change was made at the Department for Work and Pensions which allowed newly recognised refugees to claim public funds before receiving their biometric residence permit.[5]

This is regardless of whether or not any alternative source of income and accommodation has been secured. Recent issues with this process have been detailed in Forms and levels of material reception conditions In practice few refugees find alternative accommodation within this time. The main obstacles they face are the processing times for welfare benefits, the lack of a bank account or online credit history. Public housing is restricted to those with children or who are considered a priority because of ill health or disability and those whose illness is mental rather than physical face particular difficulties. The latter category often finds difficulty persuading the authorities to provide them with public housing. The Refugee Council has written a guide to making and pursuing these applications,[6] as well as translated guides to opening a bank account.[7]

This is in stark contrast to those who arrive in the UK as refugees under resettlement programmes. Although individuals will have to open a bank account, sign a tenancy for housing and make a claim for welfare benefits on arrival, support is usually available to assist with this and a small monetary amount is given by the Home Office to ensure that people have some funds on which to live when they first arrive. The Refugee Council has written a policy briefing on this issue.[8]

The British Red Cross produced a cost benefit analysis of the 28 day ‘move-on’ period in February 2020, arguing that the UK government could save significant amounts of money including the cost of temporary accommodation, if the 28 days was doubled to 56.[9]

Despite a wealth of evidence, the issue continues to affect many new refugees and other beneficiaries of leave, resulting in homelessness and destitution.[10] The reasons for this are outlined in the research; it is acknowledged that many refugees may not be aware that claims for welfare benefits usually take weeks to process and may not apply as soon as they are eligible, but recent reports show that in many cases the people advising them, employed by the department that processes claims, to advise that refugees are not able to make welfare benefits applications whilst still receiving asylum support. Similar incorrect advice was found to be given regarding eligibility for an advance payment to cover any gap in support. Additional barriers exist for refugees who have not opened a bank account; unable to do this without a regular income, they then face additional delays in welfare benefits payments which are usually made directly into a claimant’s bank account.

Unless eligible for public housing, refugees’ access to the private rental sector is impeded in practice because of the lack of funds; a refugee will not have been eligible for asylum support payments if they have savings but will need a lump sum in order to pay a deposit. Without specific schemes such as one operated by the Refugee Council in London,[11] refugees are reliant on family, friends, refugee hosting schemes or members of their community to avoid street homelessness.

As mentioned under Special reception needs of vulnerable people, former unaccompanied minors who turn 18 and who have leave, as a refugee or otherwise, will receive assistance from the local authority in line with British citizens in the same situation, under the Children (Leaving Care) Act[12] which will include help with accessing housing.



[1] The Asylum Support Regulations 2000, regulation 22, available at: https://bit.ly/49p9JY2 and the Asylum Support (Amendment) Regulations 2002, available at: https://bit.ly/48ue1fD.

[2] The Asylum Support Regulations 2000, regulation 22, available at: https://bit.ly/49p9JY2.

[3] For more details, see: https://bit.ly/3uFl0Vh.

[4] Centre for Homelessness Impact, ‘Critical links between resettlement in the UK and rising rates of street homelessness’ 18 January 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/49Ggk07.  

[5] Free Movement, Refugees can now claim universal credit without a biometric residence permit, 4 December 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3UOyLLM.  

[6] Refugee Council, Making homelessness applications for refugees in England, Refugee Council, March  2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2U9CYu9.

[7] See the English guide at: https://bit.ly/3i7fDYh; there are also five translated guides available.

[8] Refugee Council, Policy briefing: Support for refugees in England, December 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/38oSTsT.

[9] British Red Cross; The cost of destitution, February 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/2VIwCmx.

[10] British Red Cross, The Cost of Destitution, 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/49LAXrA.

[11] Refugee Council, ‘Helping refugees find a home’, accessed 24 March 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/3T6rYfl.

[12] Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. Devolved governments have similar provisions.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection