Move-on period: more than 50,000 refugees could be homeless by the end of the year

Unless people are given more time to find employment and support after being given refugee status, thousands could become destitute in months.

Last updated 5 October 2023

Since the changes to the move-on process at the beginning of August 2023, British Red Cross Refugee Services have seen a 140% increase in destitution for people they support with refugee status.

Across the UK, our caseworkers are having to hand out sleeping bags and tents to people who have recently been granted refugee status but now face life on the streets.

At least one refugee has had all of his possessions stolen while sleeping rough.

As the government promises to process all legacy asylum claims made before 28 June 2022 by the end of the year, our new projections show that a further 50,000 people could also be made homeless.

But what exactly is the ‘move-on period’? And why are people being made homeless?

What is the move-on period?

When people seeking asylum receive their refugee status, the Home Office allows them just 28 days to move on.

This means moving on from asylum support and housing to their own accommodation, mainstream benefits, or employment. It's simply not enough time. 

For years, we’ve been calling on the government to extend the move-on period to 56 days.

This would match the time period local authorities are given to work with households at risk of homelessness.

How has the move-on process changed?

The Home Office has recently changed the way they implement the move-on period.

The 28 days now start from the time when people receive their asylum decision letter. It used to start from the time they received their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

People need their BRP to be able to apply for Universal Credit, or to find a job or school for their children. This can arrive weeks and sometimes months after a decision to grant asylum, so many are stuck.

Recently, our caseworkers have seen some people receive only seven days’ notice to move on. Seven days to find a job, a home, and in many cases where people have to move, schools. It’s just not possible.

In parts of Greater Manchester, homelessness for single men has almost become a guaranteed part of getting refugee status,” says Bethan, a British Red Cross refugee service manager.

The mental health impact of this is shocking. For people going through the asylum system, this next step is deeply demoralising.

London, North West England and Glasgow have particularly high numbers of people in asylum accommodation at risk of destitution, as well as high housing pressures.

Local authorities are not getting the support they need to find homes for people leaving asylum accommodation.

Could refugees really face homelessness by the end of the year?

If the government doesn’t take urgent steps to support refugees as they clear the asylum backlog, then yes.

The government has pledged to process all ‘legacy’ asylum applications made before 28 June 2022, by the end of the year.

If this target is met, based on the number of people living in asylum accommodation, including their dependents, our new projections show that more than 50,000 people are at risk of homelessness. 

Even if decision-making on asylum claims isn’t sped up and the target is not met, our research shows that 26,000 people could still be at risk of destitution and homelessness.

Alex Fraser, British Red Cross Director for Refugee Support, said: 

Once people get refugee status, they need more time, not less, to find housing, work or benefits.

"It takes at least 35 days to start getting Universal Credit and local authorities need at least 56 days to help them find accommodation."

How can this crisis be stopped?

Reversing recent changes to the move-on period and extending it to 56 days, would go a long way.

But we’d also like to see the government support local authorities, to ensure refugees are not left on the streets.

Alex continues: "We have been calling for a more joined-up approach to support people since before the changes to the move-on period on 1 August.

“We're aware the Home Office is taking some action to address the issues.

“However, thousands of people are already facing hardship, and the charities and local authorities supporting them are under pressure.

"These projected statistics show how urgent the situation is." 

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