Will I be Able to Claim Housing Benefit When My Refugee Status Has Been Approved?
Refugees represent some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society, and as such, having access to social benefits can make the difference between destitution and having access to life’s essentials such as shelter, food, clothing, hygiene products, and medicines. While many believe that the UK takes in a large proportion of asylum seekers and refugees, this is not the case. Most refugees register for asylum in Germany, France, and Spain Germany takes in nearly one-quarter of all asylum seekers in the EU (142,000 in 2019). By comparison, the UK received 34,354 asylum applications in the year to September 2019, the majority of which were from Iranian, Iraqi, and Albanian nationals. In this article, we will discuss whether refugees and asylum seekers can claim housing benefit in the UK once their protected status has been approved by the Home Office.
Am I Eligible for Support While my Asylum Application is Being Processed?
Yes, asylum support is available to those who have claimed asylum and do not have a place to live or money to support themselves; this is referred to as being ‘destitute’. During your asylum screening interview with the Home Office, you should advise them at this time if you are destitute. If you are able to satisfy the Home Office that you meet the criteria for destitution, then you should be given temporary accommodation, food, and toiletries (this is referred to as ‘section 98 support’).
Section 95 support will later become available while your application is being processed or if you are bringing an appeal against a negative decision. Section 95 support means that you will be given accommodation and receive £37.75 per week on a pre-paid card.
Am I Eligible for Housing Benefit Once my Refugee Status is Approved?
Once you receive formal refugee status, you will no longer receive asylum support, but you will be able to claim for social services benefits. In addition, you will also be able to work in the UK. You will first need to find new accommodation as you will no longer qualify for housing intended for asylum seekers. As such, if you are living in accommodation provided and funded by the Home Office, you will typically have 28 days to move. If you need assistance with finding new housing, it is recommended that you speak to your local authority/council housing department. They will arrange an appointment to meet with you to discuss your requirements. They may ask you a number of questions including how long you have been living in the local area, whether your family including dependant children are with you, whether you have family members nearby, whether you have any serious health problems and whether you will be at risk of destitution once you leave your Home Office accommodation. It is important to note that housing departments often have a long waiting list for accommodation, hence you may be placed into temporary housing in the meantime (e.g. a b&b or hotel). Once a house becomes available, you will be advised of the rental amount, and if necessary, you can then claim Universal Credit and then for a housing payment.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is the new benefits system which brings together all of the main types of social benefits on offer in the UK, namely:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
Universal Credit is designed to provide assistance with living costs for those on a low income, no income, or who cannot work. You may be eligible for Universal Credit if you meet the following criteria:
- you’re on a low income or out of work
- you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
- you’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
- you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
- you live in the UK
The amount paid by Universal Credit is £409.89 per month for those who are single and over 25 years old. If you are applying as a couple, you will receive a combined amount of £594.04. You will receive extra money if you have children; £281.25 for the first child (if born before 6 April 2017) or £235.83 (if born on or after 6 April 2017). Additional funds may be available if you have a disability or health condition.
Can I Claim a Housing Payment as a Refugee if I am Eligible for Universal Credit?
Yes, as you will have been assessed as being on no or low income, you should be able to apply for a housing payment towards your rent. A housing payment can help you pay:
- your rent to a private landlord
- your rent and some service charges if you rent from a housing association or local authority, for example, council housing
- interest payments on your mortgage and some service charge if you or your partner own the property you live in
To make a claim for a housing payment, you will need to login to your online Universal Credit account and submit an application. You may be invited to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus office (typically within one week) and you will be advised if there are any documents you need to bring with you (e.g. your tenancy agreement or a signed letter from your landlord confirming that you are paying them rent and that you are living in their property legally). You can expect to receive an estimated payment date shown on your online account within three weeks of applying for a housing payment.
If you have now received confirmation that your asylum application has been approved, many congratulations. You are now another step closer to ensuring your safety and security, and that of your family members. While the amounts are not high, the UK does make social security benefits available to refugees once they have been approved to stay. If you need any assistance, contact your local authority, job centre, refugee charity, or Immigration Solicitor; remember, there is plenty of help on hand.