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 extreme poverty. For many, 28 days is not long enough.

What’s wrong?

The 28-day move-on period in the UK is leaving refugees on the brink of extreme poverty. Evidence from people who use 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.

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

  • Twenty-eight 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.
  • Extending the move-on period to 56 days would have an overall financial benefit of between £4 million and £7 million each year. This includes £2.1 million to local authorities through decreasing the use of temporary accommodation, and up to £3.2 million through reducing rough sleeping.

Who’s affected?

The British Red Cross supports around 16,000 refugees and asylum seekers 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?

Since 2014, the government has made a number of changes to help refugees after they get their asylum decision. But our research shows that more needs to be done.

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, refugees and the charities working with refugees during this period.

We’ll be working with the government to make this happen – and continue to help those who have the right to a life here.

Our calls to decision makers:

  • Extend the move-on period to at least 56 days, to avoid a break in support.
  • Remove the administrative barriers that newly recognised refugees face so that they are able to open bank accounts and are sent the right documentation.
  • Provide more support to newly recognised refugees to help them navigate the move-on period to apply for Universal Credit and secure accommodation.

Support our calls

England - contact Jon Featonby:

Scotland - contact Kenneth Watt:

Wales - contact Georgia Marks:

Northern Ireland - contact Stephen Browne: