Social welfare

United Kingdom

Country Report: Social welfare Last updated: 30/05/23


Refugee Council Visit Website

The law provides access to social welfare for beneficiaries of international protection, although practical difficulties are encountered.

Social welfare is provided to beneficiaries under the same conditions and on the same level as for nationals, although public housing may be restricted to those with a history of living in a particular area, so beneficiaries who move away from dispersal areas may encounter problems. The laws do apply to all. The main authorities responsible for granting social assistance are the Department for Work and Pensions, (national government department) administered by local Job Centres. The provision of social welfare is not tied to a requirement to reside in a specific place or region.

Beneficiaries face various difficulties in accessing social assistance, outlined in research conducted by the Refugee Council and British Red Cross.[1]. From 8 January 2018 the Residence Permit has the National Insurance Number printed on it,[2] which should reduce delays in making welfare benefit claims. The issues relating to opening bank accounts and finding enough money to secure private rented housing (which require an upfront fee) remain unresolved. A new way of administering welfare benefits is being phased in to all Job Centres across the country. This has inbuilt waiting times and applications can only be made on time, which has resulted in further hardship. There has been a lot of interest from the relevant Parliamentary Committee in recent years;[3] the Committee has scrutinised many aspects of the government’s welfare benefits policy, many of which adversely affect refugees. A parliamentary debate in March 2020 discussed many of the key difficulties in general as well as the Red Cross report.[4]




[1] Refugee Council, Refugees without refuge: Findings from a survey of newly recognised refugees, September 2017, available at:; England’s Forgotten Refugees, May 2016, available at:; 28 Days Later; the experience of new refugees in the UK, 2014, available at:; British Red Cross, The move on period: an ordeal for new refugees, 2014, available at:

[2] Minister for Immigration, Answer to parliamentary question, 5 December 2017, available at:

[3] Work and Pensions Committee reports 2017-19; including Universal Credit, Benefit cap and the two child limit, available at:

[4] Asylum decisions (support for refugees) debate, 4 March 2020, available at:

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