Because unfortunately, it is needed.
Many people who have been granted refugee status face destitution immediately due to a fault in the system. This is when refugees understandably believe that the chances of being made destitute by the asylum system are behind them. Sadly this is too often not the case.
The asylum process works as follows: if your claim for asylum is accepted you have refugee status. This means the UK Home Office has acknowledged that you need protection in the UK and that you can remain here. It is the news people within the asylum system have been hoping for and dreaming of. You are entitled to work, and can claim mainstream benefits (including housing support) while you look for a job. You then enter the Home Office’s 28 day ‘move-on’ period, which is where the problems begin.
The ‘move-on’ period
The ‘move-on’ period is the 28 days after you receive news of your refugee status, during which you are required to ‘move-on’ from asylum support (provided by the Home Office) to mainstream support (proved by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)). Twenty-eight days to move from one bureaucratic government system to another. Twenty-eight days to find a new home and to start looking for work.
After these 28 days your asylum support stops, regardless of whether your DWP support is in place or not. Unfortunately, rather than 28 days, it takes an average of 42-50 days to receive your first DWP payment, according to the Holistic Integration Service (2015) report by the Scottish refugee council. This gap of 2 – 3 weeks during which refugees and their families have no means of support is the point at which they often fall into destitution.
RST grants are available as a last resort for refugees and people seeking asylum who are facing destitution. It is clear that the government’s time frame is too tight, and support is not in place for new refugees navigating a new system. RST provide an additional two weeks of support to help people and families while they transfer onto mainstream support, bridging the gap left by the government.
As pointed out by the British Red Cross in their report ‘The move-on period: an ordeal for new refugees’ (2014) this situation could be easily avoided if:
- The move-on period was extended to avoid a break in support
- The first day of this ‘move-on’ period was the day new refugees receive their key documents (e.g. NI number)
- All Job Centre Plus staff were trained and up-to-date on issues associated with refugee transition.
In 2015-16 RST provided 238 grants to support new refugees moving on to mainstream benefits, 39 of which included children. Until changes are made to the system RST will continue to support individuals and families facing destitution where the government fails.