How will we survive?

Steps to preventing destitution in the asylum system

Our report evidences experiences of destitution among people seeking asylum. We call for comprehensive support for people seeking asylum as they arrive in the UK.

The British Red Cross and Refugee Survival Trust report How will we survive? Steps to preventing destitution in the asylum system found that experiences of destitution are widespread among people seeking asylum. 

Our research found that people can experience destitution and financial hardship across all stages of their asylum claim. However, people with lived experience told us that the first six months is the most difficult. This is caused by:


  • delays in receiving asylum support
  • inadequate financial support
  • lack of knowledge about the asylum system and their rights within it
  • language and cultural barriers
  • not knowing how to access support advocacy and advice
  • being repeatedly moved within asylum accommodation
  • being unable to establish and maintain social connections and support networks.
These factors can eventually lead to destitution. And yet with no right to a bank account, and no real financial independence, people in the asylum system have little option but to become dependent on the limited support available. This dependency causes great unhappiness: people are desperate, but unable to contribute to the society protecting them.
Peer researchers

Our recommendations

Providing people with comprehensive and compassionate support when they arrive in the UK would reduce vulnerability to destitution and build resilience. Crucially, it would give them agency and control over their daily lives.

Our report lays out a set of recommendations to the Home Office, the Scottish Government and the voluntary and community sector.

1. Ensure that asylum support prevents destitution and improves agency and choice in people’s daily lives

  • The Home Office should provide an initial cash grant to people entering the asylum support system so they have start up support to purchase clothing, phones and other essential items.


2. Make wider Home Office processes and procedures more efficient and trauma informed

  • The Home Office should improve and speed up asylum decision-making, recognising the impact that poor quality decision-making and delays can have on the health, wellbeing and financial resilience of those seeking asylum.


3. Give people seeking asylum good quality information, advice and advocacy early on

  • The Scottish Government should invest in and pilot a peer support system for people seeking asylum in Scotland. This would help new arrivals, and those who are more vulnerable at any stage of the asylum process, to access support, guidance and friendship from people who have shared experiences of navigating the asylum system.


4. Provide people with the skills and opportunities to support themselves financially

  • The Home Office should automatically grant people the right to work if they have been waiting for longer than six months for a decision on their initial asylum claim or following the submission of further evidence. This right should not be restricted to jobs included on the shortage occupation list.


5. Improve emergency provisions and support for people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF)

  • The Scottish Government should provide cash grants for vulnerable people at risk of destitution, including those with NRPF – as included in the anti-destitution strategy – permanent, and link this with a wider package of crisis support in the forthcoming review of the Scottish Welfare Fund.


6. Increase access to health services, in particular mental health provision for people seeking asylum, recognising the high levels of mental health need and complex trauma among this group

  • The Scottish Government should prioritise funding specifically aimed at improving access to mental health services for those with NRPF and, in particular, those who have experienced complex trauma and have to find their way through the complex asylum process.


7. Improve access to support and services provided by the voluntary and community sector

  • Work towards better coordination across the voluntary and community sector in Scotland so that there is improved information and clarity on the support available for people at different stages of the asylum process.
The lived experiences of the many people who participated in this research, including our own, is a call for change.
Peer researchers

This research was commissioned by The Destitute Asylum Seeker Service (DASS) which provides needs-based support across a range of areas, including accommodation, casework, and legal advice.