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asylum support


Most asylum seekers are excluded from most welfare benefits. However there are some exceptions so you should check if these apply to you. Welfare benefits are paid in cash and at a higher rate than other types of asylum support, which are described in this leaflet.

You can get asylum support if:

  • You have claimed asylum, or you are a dependent of someone who has, and the claim, or an appeal against a refusal, has not yet been decided. You are included in this category if you or someone on whom you are dependant have asked to stay in the UK under Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention; and
  • You are aged 18 or over; and
  • You are accepted as destitute or likely to become destitute within 14 days.

This means that either:

  • You (and your household) do not have adequate accommodation that it is reasonable for you to continue to occupy, or any means of obtaining adequate accommodation; or
  • You cannot meet your other essential living needs. Account will be taken of any income or savings you have and any income or other support you might reasonably be expected to have available to you.

However, you will be excluded from asylum support if:

  • You are considered to be ‘intentionally destitute’; or
  • You are entitled to income support, income-based job seekers allowance, housing benefit or council tax benefit; or
  • You have not properly completed the correct NASS application form or have not co-operated with further enquires; or
  • (The following does not apply if have a dependent child living with you.) You are not accepted as having made your asylum claim ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after your arrival in the UK, and to deprive you of support would not breach your human rights. Seek immediate advice if you are told you are not eligible for support on this basis; or
  • You are an European Economic Area (EEA) (other than UK) national or have been granted refugee status in another EEA state.

Note: you will not receive any support for any adult dependant (for example your partner) who is included in your claim if they are an EEA (other than UK) national, or they have been granted refugee status in another EEA state, or they have been refused asylum and are failing to co-operate with removal directions, or they are not an asylum seeker and are in the UK in breach of the immigration laws.

Where to go for support

There are two systems of asylum support, one provided by your local authority (LA) and the other provided by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). The one you can apply to will depend on when and where you claimed asylum.

You should apply to your LA if:

  • You claimed asylum, other than at the port of entry, before the relevant date for the region in which you intend to claim support. These are: 17.4.00 (Kent and Medway), 24.7.00 (London), 31.7.00 (Wales, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside), 14.8.00 (North West, East Midlands, Eastern, South West and South Central), 29.8.00 (West Midlands and Sussex); or
  • You ceased to be entitled to IS because of a negative asylum decision made before 25.9.00 (17.4.00 if in Kent or Medway).

Otherwise you should apply to NASS.

To apply to your LA you should go to the asylum team within your local social services department. The LA can provide temporary accommodation and support whilst your application for support is processed.

The procedure for applying to NASS is subject to change at the time of writing (April 2003). You can apply directly to NASS by submitting an application that is ‘complete’ and ‘accurate’ and on the prescribed form, however it is strongly advised that you obtain specialist advice before doing so. If you need temporary accommodation and support whilst your application is processed you should go to the One Stop Service for your area (details available from the organisations listed on the back of this leaflet).

The exception is if you have a child and you are applying to NASS because you have ceased to be entitled to benefit due to the Home Office making a negative decision, on or after 25.9.00, on your asylum claim. In this case, your local authority can help with applying to NASS and can provide temporary accommodation and support while the NASS application is processed.

What support can you get?

NASS can support you by providing both accommodation and financial support. They can also provide just accommodation or just financial support. If you are able to stay with friends or family, for example, you may want to apply for only financial support. If you are applying to the LA you will only be provided with just financial support (or just accommodation) if either you have a child or the LA accept that you have exceptional reasons.


The accommodation will be provided in a region outside of London and the South East unless there are exceptional reasons for you staying in these areas. It is NASS policy not to disperse people outside of London and the South East if they meet certain criteria. Examples include people with a child who has been in the same school for at least 1 year, and people being treated by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. However the circumstances of each application should be considered on their own merits. If you have reasons for needing accommodation in a particular area it is therefore important that you provide NASS (or the LA if your application is to them) with full details and supporting evidence. Your chances of being housed in a particular area will be greatly increased if you get help with the application from a specialist advice agency or solicitor.

Essential Living Needs Support

If you are supported by NASS you will receive support in cash, but this will be reduced if you have any meals included within your accommodation. If you have been supported for 6 months by NASS you can claim a £50 payment for each member of your family. If you are pregnant you should tell NASS, who should increase your weekly support once they have proof of the pregnancy. If you are expecting the baby within a month or if you had a baby less than 2 weeks ago (or 3 months if born outside the UK and you have evidence) you can claim a £300 maternity payment. For any of these payments you must make a claim in writing to NASS, they will not be paid automatically.

If you are supported by your LA you may be paid in various ways including cash or vouchers. The LA can choose how to pay you.

When support ends

Once your asylum claim and appeal (if any) have been decided, your support will end 21 days after a negative decision, or 28 days after a positive decision. However if you have been getting support for a child, your support will continue while you both remain in the UK and your child is under 18.

Otherwise if your asylum claim and appeal have been refused you may be able to apply to the discretionary "Hard Cases" fund run by NASS for full-board accommodation. Get assistance in making this application.

If you are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain as a refugee, Exceptional Leave to Remain (ELR), Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave, you are entitled to apply for LA housing and to claim welfare benefits. Do not delay making your claim. If you are granted Indefinite Leave to Remain as a refugee you may also be able to claim (within 28 days of receipt of the Home Office decision letter) backdated benefit

Your support may also end earlier if you fail, without reasonable excuse, to comply with any of the conditions given to you in writing when you are offered the support.

Challenging decisions

If you are refused asylum support seek advice immediately. You may have a right to appeal against a decision by NASS to refuse or stop providing you support. You have to appeal within 2 days of receiving the decision but this time can be extended if you missed the time limit because of reasons beyond your control. (You cannot appeal if support was refused because you were not accepted as having claimed asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after your arrival in the UK.)

Other sources of support

You may be eligible for accommodation together with other support from the LA if you have special needs because, for example, you have a disability, health problems or are elderly, and so your needs are not solely because you are destitute. This accommodation and support would be provided under the National Assistance Act (NAA) or other community care legislation.

You may be entitled to accommodation and support under the Children Act if you are aged under 18, or you have a child aged under 18 and you are not entitled to asylum support.

If either of these may apply to you, seek specialist advice.

Please note that the information in this leaflet is not intended to be a full explanation of the law or of your rights: for detailed advice about your own circumstances, you should contact a specialist adviser or a solicitor.

For further information, contact one of the ROAP partnership organisations:

For advice on the asylum application process contact:

Asylum Aid

28 Commercial Street, London E1 6LS

Tel. 020 7377 5123

Fax. 020 7247 7789

For advice on welfare benefits and asylum support contact:

Central London Advice Service (CLAS)

Derry House, Penfold Street, London NW8 8HJ

Tel. 020 7402 6750 ext. 23

Fax. 020 7224 8264

For advice on adult education, training & employment contact:

Refugee Education & Training Advisory Service (RETAS)

14 Dufferin Street, London EC1Y 8PD

Tel. 020 7426 5837/5817

Fax. 020 7251 1314

Printed May 2003

This document was provided by ROAP