Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit and Greater Manchester Law Centre have put this guide together to help people in asylum accommodation who are receiving either a grant of refugee status, which includes full entitlement to work, housing, welfare benefits and healthcare, or a refusal of their claim for asylum. There will be a significant increase in the numbers of people affected over the next few months.
The background to this is that the Home Office is trying to clear the backlog of older asylum claims before the end of December 2023. For many people in the asylum system this will mean being moved on from asylum accommodation into mainstream accommodation. We want to make sure that people who are affected have the information they need to help with this transition and to reduce the confusion and distress that many people face.
The Home Office have also changed their procedures for terminating asylum support which means that people are getting less time to move out of their accommodation than previously. These changes are within the law but are causing difficulties for people as there is much less time to access alternative housing.
This guide is to explain what you should do if asked to leave your accommodation, and how you can access homelessness support from your local council.
1. Discontinuation Periods and Procedures – the new ways of ending support
If you get a Positive decision (a grant of Refugee Status or another form of leave to remain)
People receiving positive decisions are given 28 days’ notice to leave their accommodation from the date the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card is issued (this used to be 28 days from the date of the asylum support discontinuation letter / notice to quit). The BRP card is often needed to claim benefits, housing and find work.
This is the same for those receiving section 4 support.
In practice, the notice to quit letter does not often come at the same time as the BRP card and so the actual date that someone has to leave their accommodation is not known until a notice to quit letter is issued. A minimum of 7 days’ notice to leave the accommodation should be given from the date of the notice to quit letter.
What this means: The asylum grant letter warns people that their support is going to end, and when the BRP card is issued the 28 days’ notice period starts. A minimum of 7 days’ notice should be given in writing as to when the support will actually stop. It is this letter (along with the BRP card) that is often needed to progress a homelessness application.
A notice to quit letter must only be issued once the BRP card is issued.
If you get a Negative decision (Refusal of asylum)
People receiving negative decisions are given 21 days from the date of the decision (again, this used to be 21 days from the date of the asylum support discontinuation letter).
If someone is on section 4 support, then their notice period is 14 days.
A minimum of 7 days’ notice is required to be given from the accommodation provider (called Notice to Quit).
What this means: People receiving negative decisions get less warning that their support is going to end, and will only get 7 days’ notice of when they have to leave their accommodation. There may be a gap of more than 21 days between getting the negative decision and getting the 7 days’ notice to quit.
Other ways you might lose your support
Grants of leave or refusals are not the only way support can be terminated. There is always a right of appeal if support is terminated for any of the reasons below. If support is being terminated for one of these reasons, please make a referral to GMIAU’s destitution team here.
- no longer destitute;
- breached the conditions of support (this would include cases where the person has abandoned their asylum support accommodation;
- failed to travel when requested to by the Home Office;
- withdrawn asylum claim, or had claim treated as withdrawn.
2. Important things to do once an asylum decision is issued
** Do not wait until the asylum support discontinuation letter has arrived**.
Positive decision (for example, leave to remain / refugee status / humanitarian protection)
Contact the local council homelessness team for an appointment to make a homelessness assessment.
The council will carry out an assessment and determine whether someone is in “priority need”
If there is no priority need, the council will still provide help and support someone to find a place to live. They may also be able to accommodate in temporary accommodation and help with deposits and the first month’s rent.
For more information on housing after a positive decision, see this guide.
If someone does not have paid employment starting imminently, an application for benefits will need to be submitted.
Don’t delay making a benefits application once a positive decision has been received. The DWP have recently confirmed that an application for benefits can be made with the asylum grant letter and an ARC card (application registration card) where someone is having problems with their BRP card arriving / having the wrong details.
Negative decision / refusal
The first thing to do is discuss with this with your solicitor if you have one. Can they challenge the decision? Is there a right of appeal? Can steps be taken to submit a fresh claim for asylum (called further submissions)?
If someone does not have a solicitor – read the letter carefully, and try to get legal advice to see if it can be challenged. You can find a list of free legal aid advisers here.
There is also advice about the asylum process and how to challenge decisions here .
3. Challenging a discontinuation of asylum support
There are a few reasons why the decision to end support might be challenged. For example;
- 7 days’ notice to leave the accommodation has been issued but the BRP card has not arrived.
- The BRP card has arrived but it does not have the correct details on it and has been sent back.
- The 7 days’ notice to leave the accommodation has been received but no asylum decision letter has been received.
- The BRP card has arrived and the 7 days’ notice to quit letter issued, but in total the person has not had 28 days’ notice from the date their BRP card was issued.
- The person is particularly vulnerable and needs more time or support to manage the move on process.
To challenge a discontinuation of support and ask for extra time, call Migrant Help on 0808 8010 503 or use their webchat service here and explain the problem.
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Migrant Help can request an extension of the support for 7 days at a time, until the issue is resolved. It may be necessary to keep contacting Migrant Help to ask for an extension.
It may also be possible to appeal the decision to end support to the Asylum Support Tribunal. To discuss whether an appeal can be made and to get help with the appeal process please make a referral to GMIAU here.
4. Making a Homeless Application
When you are granted Refugee Status or any other form of Leave to Remain with Recourse to Public Funds, then you become eligible for homelessness assistance from the Council’s Homeless Department. If you have been living in Asylum Accommodation you will be given Notice to leave.
If you don’t have anywhere to stay, then you can ask the Council for help finding accommodation.
Don’t wait until the day you have been asked to leave your Asylum Accommodation. You can make your application as soon as you know that you have been granted status and are going to need help finding somewhere else to stay.
You can apply to any Council, but if you approach a Council where you do not have a local connection then they are probably going to refer you to the Council in an area where you do.
Each Council has different rules about how they would like you to make your application and it’s best to check the website to see whether you can go to their Homeless Department in person or whether they ask you to contact them by phone or e-mail.
If you need help making an application then someone can make the application on your behalf and ask that the Council make contact with you to arrange an interview for an assessment. The assessment can be in person or by phone. If you need an interpreter then the Council should arrange this for you. If you find it difficult to have conversations on the phone then the Council should agree to arrange a face-to-face appointment.
5. Your Homelessness Assessment
When you have your assessment, the Council should ask questions to find out about 5 things:
- Whether you are homeless or threatened with homelessness – the Council will ask about your current housing circumstances: Whether you have somewhere to stay, if so for how long and whether you have any friends or family who can help you with accommodation.
Evidence to help you – you should give to the Council a copy of any Notice you have received asking you to leave, or, if you have been staying with friends, a letter from them confirming that they cannot help you anymore.
2. Whether you are eligible for homeless assistance from the Council’s homelessness department – the Council will ask about your immigration status and will ask for copies of your documents.
3. Whether you are in priority need –
You will always be in priority need if you
- have children who live with you; or
- if you or your partner are pregnant; or
- you are aged 16 or 17; or
- you are under 21 and have been in care when you were 16 or 17; or
- have become homeless because of domestic violence or abuse;
You should also be in priority need if you will be more vulnerable if you are homeless than other people because of:
- health problems or disabilities, or any other circumstances such as
- your age,
- violence, abuse, trafficking or trauma you have suffered in the past; or
- your limited English and lack of family or other support.
The Council should consider all of these problems together when deciding whether they make you significantly more at risk of harm when homeless than somebody without these problems.
Evidence that might help you:
If you have a medical report or other evidence that you used for your immigration case that could help you show how serious your health problems are or the things that you have experienced.
You can also give to the Council a letter from your GP or other medical professional who knows you or any other organisation that has been giving you support.
4. Why you have become homeless and whether you have lost your home because of something you deliberately did or didn’t do.
If the Council think it is your fault that you have become homeless then they may decide that you have become intentionally homeless.If you have lost your accommodation because you have been granted status or been asked to leave because the people you have been staying with can’t help you anymore then this shouldn’t be considered your fault.
5. Whether you have a local connection with the Council’s area:
You will generally have a local connection with a Council area if:
- It is the area of your last asylum accommodation provided to you under Section 95, or
- You have lived in an area, (not in asylum accommodation or detention) for 6 months out of the last 12 months or 3 years out of the last 5 years, or
- You are a care leaver who was in care in the area, or
- You have family associations in the area (parents, adult children, brothers and sisters or other relatives who are very close and important to you) and they have lived in the area for a long time, or
- There are other very strong reasons why you need to be in the area – for example because you rely on a person or organisation for care and support and can’t get the same support in any other area.
- You have stable employment in the area,
Evidence that might help you:
The more evidence you can show to the Council about why you have a connection to the area the better – this could be a letter confirming your most recent Section 95 address, letters from people you have been staying with, bank statement to show you have been in the area, your employment contract or letters from people or organisations that are offering you support.
If you are eligible for homeless assistance from the Council and are homeless or threatened with homelessness then the Council have the following duties:
The letters and documents you should receive after your assessment
After your homelessness assessment then the Council should send to you a letter stating what duty they have accepted to you and a copy of your housing needs assessment and personalised housing plan. The plan should set out what steps the Council will take and what steps you should take to either prevent you becoming homeless or to find suitable accommodation for you.
6. The Different Homeless Duties
- The Council’s duty to prevent people becoming homeless – The Prevent Duty
If you have somewhere that is OK for you to stay in the short term, but won’t be able to stay for more than 8 weeks, then the Council may decide that they have a duty to help prevent you becoming homeless.
This duty lasts for 8 weeks (56 days) and during that time the Council should take steps to either help you stay in your current accommodation or help find you somewhere to stay before you become homeless.
- The Council’s duty to provide relief to people who are already homeless – The Relief Duty
If you are already homeless or become homeless after you have made your homelessness application, then the Council will owe you the relief duty. This is a duty to help you to find suitable accommodation that is likely to last for at least 6 months.
The duty ends if:
- The Council decides you do not have a local connection with their area and another Council accepts that you have a local connection with them. In these cases the new Council takes over all homeless duties to you.
- You are no longer homeless because you have found and accepted somewhere that is suitable and likely to last for at least 6 months or you have refused an offer of such accommodation; or
- You are still homeless after 56 days
- Emergency Temporary Accommodation during the Relief duty:
If you don’t have anywhere safe to stay and can give the Council some reason to believe that you might be homeless, eligible for help and in priority need then the Council should provide you with temporary accommodation whilst they consider your case and help you under the Relief duty.
What happens if I am still homeless at the end of the Relief Duty:
If you are still homeless at the end of the Relief Duty then the Council will only have a duty to provide you with accommodation if you are in priority need.
- The Final Homeless Duty
If Council should accept a main homeless duty if they decide that you are:
- Eligible for assistance
- In priority need; and
- Not intentionally homeless
The Council will then have an ongoing duty to provide you with suitable accommodation until you receive an offer of suitable accommodation. This could be social housing or an offer of a private rented property with a tenancy of at least 12 months.
The duty will end if you refuse such an offer or do something that causes you to lose your homeless temporary accommodation.
The main duty can also be transferred to another Council if, after the Relief Duty ends the Council decide you do not have a local connection with their area, and another Council accepts that you have a local connection with them.
- The Temporary Accommodation Duty –
If the Council decides you are homeless, eligible for assistance, in priority need but are intentionally homeless, then they only have a temporary duty to provide you with accommodation for a reasonable period whilst they help you try to find somewhere to stay. The amount of time should depend on your circumstances but can be as little as a few weeks.
7. Warning about refusing offers of accommodation
It is really important that you understand the risks of refusing an offer of accommodation made to you by the Council or for a property they have found for you.
Because so many people need accommodation and there is so little available, the accommodation offered to you does not have to be ideal, or even good for you, to be considered suitable.
If it meets your needs in terms of size and affordability and you could live reasonably in the property then it is likely to be considered suitable even if it is not in an area you know or have links to.
For this reason, the best advice is almost always to accept the offer and, if you do not like it, to then request a review. If you do this, and you cannot persuade the Council or a court that the property is not suitable for your needs, then you will at least have somewhere to stay whilst you look for better accommodation.
If you refuse the accommodation and the Council or the court decide the property was good enough and therefore suitable for you, the Homelessness Department’s duty to you comes to an end and they do not have to offer you any more help.
8. Challenging decisions
You have the right to request a Review of the Council’s decisions about what duty they owe to you or whether the accommodation they have offered is suitable. You have to request the review in writing within 21 days of the decision.
If you request a Review then you can also ask the Council to give you accommodation while they complete the review. Generally, the Council should do this if your case is strong, there is new information for them to consider and you have nowhere else safe to stay.
If your review is unsuccessful then you can appeal to the County Court and have to issue your appeal within 21 days of the Review decision.
Other accommodation decisions:
The main Council decisions that don’t have a right to review are
- a decision to refuse to provide you with emergency temporary accommodation while they help you under the relief duty; and
- A decision to refuse to provide you with temporary accommodation while they consider your review.
These decisions need to be challenged by writing to the Council explaining why you think the decision is wrong and warning them that if they don’t change their minds, you will make an application for Judicial Review to the High Court. This is complicated and you will probably need a legal advisor to help you.
Getting legal help to challenge decisions:
If you are on Universal Credit or have a very low income then you should be eligible for Legal Aid (free legal advice) to challenge homeless decisions.
Providers/ organisations that can help (if you are distributing this document in your local community please feel free to add your suggestions to this list)
The GMIAU advice line operates on Mondays AND Fridays from 9:30am to 1pm, and on Wednesdays from 1:30pm to 4:30pm at 0161 740 7722. You can also find advice at www.gmiau.org.
Call or email Greater Manchester Law Centre to make a referral for help