The Refugee Council warmly welcomes new research into the ‘move-on’ period for new refugees which was published today by the British Red Cross.
‘Still an ordeal: the move-on period for new refugees’ explores the experiences of people when they are first recognised as a refugee in the UK. Having successfully applied for asylum, they are granted a 28 day grace period to ‘move-on’ from asylum support provided by the Home Office. In this time they must find alternative accommodation, arrange receipt of mainstream benefits and/or find a job.
As has been long campaigned about by the Refugee Council and others – and is confirmed in today’s research – for many newly recognised refugees, 28 days simply isn’t long enough to move on and build a new life in the UK.
This report raises several important issues about the move-on period for newly recognised refugees, including:
- Refugees are at real risk of destitution given the time they are forced to wait in-between the end of the 28 day move-on period and their first Universal Credit payment. Even if refugees have been able to open a bank account, (where there are clear barriers for refugees), received a Biometric Resident Permit as proof of ID, passed a habitual residency test, (a test which determines a refugees’ eligibility for benefits) and submitted a Universal Credit claim, there will always be a gap in-between the date they stop receiving asylum support and the start of their Universal Credit payments. The fact that refugees applying for Universal Credit face an inescapable period of time when they are in receipt of no financial support at all – termed the ‘destitution gap’ – is deeply concerning
- The above problem would be avoided if refugees could be awarded their Universal Credit payments in advance – but they are unable to be paid in advance unless they have a bank account. Considering the significant barriers newly recognised refugees face to open a bank account – as we have written about before – it is clear that receiving advance payments is not a realistic option for new refugees
- Similarly, advance payments cannot be awarded until a Habitual Residency Test has been completed. Evidence suggests that guidance surrounding this testing is unclear, causing the test to be delayed and in turn, a delay to the claimant’s first payment
This report makes the following recommendations:
- The move-on period for newly recognised refugees should be extended to at least 56 days;
- The level of support and accessibility of information provided to newly recognised refugees to help them navigate the move-on period should be improved;
- Refugees should be able to navigate the application process for Universal Credit with support as required and payments should be made as soon as possible;
- Newly recognised refugees should be able to quickly and easily open bank accounts
Responding to this research, Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council and research author, said:
“For people who have escaped war, torture and persecution, being granted asylum in Britain should be a moment of immense relief – it should be a time to finally stop running and instead to focus on rebuilding their shattered lives”.
“Sadly, as it clearly revealed in this research and has been exposed in our previous research, time and again, quite the opposite is true. Due to a system that cuts off all support for refugees just 28 days after they are granted status, many newly recognised refugees face the indignity of destitution, and are forced to live hand to mouth, relying on friends, families and even strangers to survive.”
“We echo the calls made by the British Red Cross in this important piece of research and urge the Government to act now.”