Refugee move-on period

Increase the move-on period for refugees

When a person is recognised as a refugee in the UK, they have just 28 days to avoid homelessness and destitution. For many, 28 days is not long enough.

What’s wrong with the move-on period?

The 28-day move-on period in the UK is leaving refugees on the brink of destitution. Evidence from people supported by British Red Cross services shows that newly recognised refugees are struggling after successfully applying for asylum. Many can’t move from asylum support to mainstream benefits and employment within the 28-day period given to them by the Home Office.

Recently the 28-day move-on process changed, leaving some people with as little as seven days to move out of their asylum accommodation. This is leading to devastating levels of destitution. 

In October 2023, we estimated that more than 50,000 refugees will be at risk of homelessness by the end of the year if the government clears the backlog – and even if decision-making on asylum claims isn’t sped up and the target not met, 26,000 people could still be at risk of destitution and homelessness.

Extending the move-on period to 56 days could result in annual net benefits of up to £7 million.

In December 2018, we published a report showing how the 28-day move-on period often leaves people facing extreme poverty and homelessness. Through it, we recommended that the move-on period should be extended to at least 56 days.

We then commissioned the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to build on this research. They have now done a cost-benefit analysis of extending the move-on period to 56 days.

Our new report, The costs of destitution, shares the LSE’s analysis. It concludes that giving refugees four additional weeks of support by extending the move-on period to 56 days could result in net annual benefits of between £4 million and £7 million to the UK.

Extending the move-on period would be of benefit to national, regional and local government, as well as local communities. Most importantly, it would give refugees the support they need as they start to rebuild their lives in the UK.

Key findings

  • 28 days is not enough time for newly recognised refugees to move onto mainstream benefits or find somewhere new to live.
  • Universal Credit has made it almost inevitable that refugees will be left without support. An automatic 35-day wait to receive the first Universal Credit payment is completely incompatible with the 28 days afforded to newly recognised refugees to access Universal Credit.
  • The safeguards within the Universal Credit system to ensure claimants are not left without support are often not accessed by refugees. They are often unaware that they are eligible or cannot receive them because they don’t have a bank account.
  • Under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, local authorities are given a 56-day period to work with households at risk of homelessness. But the 28-day move-on period doesn’t give local councils the same amount of time.

Who’s affected?

Refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. 

The British Red Cross supports around 10,000 refugees and people seeking asylum each year who are extremely poor and facing destitution. One in five have refugee status.

We give them help such as food vouchers, as they’re unable to meet their basic living needs, and work with them to find accommodation and financial support.

What needs to change?

All parties involved need to work better together to make sure that fewer people are left without support following the move-on period. This includes the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, JobCentre Plus, local authorities, and the charities working with refugees during this period.

Our calls to decision makers:

  • Immediately reverse recent changes to the move-on process to prevent thousands of people from spiralling into destitution. 
  • Extend the move-on period to 56 days to allow more time for newly recognised refugees to find housing, employment, or benefits.
  • Take a joined-up approach with local authorities to ensure refugees are not left on the streets. 

Contact our policy and advocacy team