Refugee Action and NACCOM
Missing the Safety Net

New research published by the charities Refugee Action and NACCOM, the No Accommodation Network, has revealed that vulnerable people refused asylum in the UK, including pregnant women and those with serious mental health conditions, are being failed by the Government’s asylum support system, leaving them homeless and unable to feed or clothe their families.

MISSING THE SAFETY NET, which features evidence from 200 asylum support applications to the Home Office from around the UK highlights that in some cases particularly vulnerable applicants are being made to wait for up to seven times the Government’s own recommended time limit for a decision on their application for support. Despite being legally entitled to support, long delays are forcing them into homelessness.

UK legislation requires the Government to support people refused asylum who are destitute and meet a narrow set of criteria, under Section 4(2) of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. For example, if they are unable to return to their home country through no fault of their own, they are without official documentation, their country refuses to accept they are a citizen, or they are physically unable to travel, through illness or late-stage pregnancy.

In such cases, the Government’s own guidance states that it should provide support, which amounts to basic (often shared) accommodation and the equivalent of £35.39 per week – little more than £5 per day – via pre-paid cards that can only be used in certain shops. Home Office guidelines stipulate that support should be accessible to eligible applicants within 5 days, and for particularly vulnerable people within 2 days. Significant delays in receiving this vital lifeline are leaving families desperate and reliant on charity handouts, the report finds.

Key findings from the research, carried out between January and July 2019, include:

  • On average, people waited 14 days for a decision on their asylum support application, with almost half (44%) of applicants waiting more than two weeks for a decision, with no other way of supporting themselves.
  • This is seven times longer than the 2-day maximum that decisions should take for the most vulnerable applicants, and three times longer than the 5-day maximum that all decisions should take, according to Home Office guidelines.
  • Some people had waited several months for a decision on their support, with one person waiting 124 days for their decision.