How one simple change would help thousands of refugees

Extending the ‘move-on’ period would also save the UK economy millions


Last updated 9 May 2023

Think of the things you could accomplish in four weeks. Complete a Couch to 5k programme perhaps, or maybe make some progress in the gym. But could you find a job, a place to live, and set up a bank account – and maybe need to do it all in your second language?

That’s what people who have been granted refugee status in the UK have to do. While seeking asylum, they are entitled to £37.75 a week and a place in asylum accommodation. But once their status is confirmed, the four-week countdown is on until they’re completely on their own. They must move out of their asylum support accommodation, find and start a job or apply for mainstream benefits, and find a new place to live. The alternative is extreme poverty and homelessness.

Reinforcing the safety net

We know that this is a problem. That’s why we want the government to extend this four-week ‘move-on’ period to eight weeks. What’s more, we know that doing so will save money.

The British Red Cross partnered with the London School of Economics and Political Science on research which estimates that extending this timeframe could actually benefit the UK economy by £7 million a year. This would outweigh the cost of doing so by up to three times.

These estimated savings are equivalent to paying for the starting salaries of 330 new police constables, 285 new nurses, 283 new teachers or 233 new midwives.

Easing pressure on already stretched services

The saving would also ease pressure on local authorities, the NHS and charities, who are currently picking up the costs of destitution and homelessness among new refugees.

The analysis found that local authorities would benefit most under the proposed changes. By allowing refugees more time to find themselves a permanent home, the need for the use of more expensive local authority temporary accommodation would save more than £2 million a year.



In preventing rough sleeping – which at a conservative estimate affects between 5 and 7 per cent of new refugees – it could benefit the public purse by up to £3.2 million every year.

The NHS and mental health services meanwhile could also save up to £1 million a year by reducing the need for NHS interventions. Complex mental health needs are five times more likely among refugees than the general population.

The British Red Cross is therefore calling on the government to fix the loophole in the system by extending this ‘move-on’ period to at least 56 days.

One small and simple change

“The design of our current asylum system rips away the safety net of support from people who have fled conflict and persecution at the moment they need it most,” said Naomi Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at the British Red Cross. 

“This isn’t about overhauling the whole system, but creating one small and simple change to extend that period of support from four to eight weeks, which would not only prevent refugees from falling into unnecessary destitution, but which would almost certainly offer significant cost-savings to some of our most stretched services and communities.”

As it stands, over 5,000 people a year would benefit from this simple change. The Red Cross is the UK’s largest provider of support to refugees and people seeking asylum. Last year, we supported over 16,500 people to access essentials such as food, clothing and sanitary items.

The next step is to help those who have sought safety and protection in the UK in getting more time to rebuild their lives in a new country.


Help us support refugees

Refugees have experienced the worst challenges in life - but together, we can show the very best of humankind. Please help us continue our vital work in the UK, and around the world.