On this page we address some key questions around the issue of destitution and the work of NACCOM and its members. Click on the questions below to find out more. For further information, please visit our Resources page or contact us.
Refugee: “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.
Asylum Seeker: A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.
Refused asylum seeker: A person whose asylum application has been unsuccessful and who has no other claim for protection awaiting a decision. Some refused asylum seekers return home (for instance using the ‘Assisted Voluntary Return’ scheme) and a small minority are forcibly returned. The majority remain to appeal their decision or to make a fresh asylum claim, however this process can be very complex and lengthy, and often requires legal assistance (for more on this, see the question ‘What is meant by ‘destitution’?)
Migrant: A person who has moved to another country. The term ‘migrant’ is often used in reference to people who move for work (as opposed to people who, once in the UK, apply for asylum. However there can be lots of different reasons for moving to another country.
See the Refugee Council’s ‘Tell It Like It Is’ briefing for more on this.
The term is commonly used in reference to asylum seekers, for whom the Home Office applies a ‘destitution test’ around their need for subsistence support and accommodation when they make an asylum application.
This test defines a person as ‘destitute’ if they do not have adequate accommodation or enough money to meet living expenses for themselves and any dependants now or within the next 14 days. If eligible, applicants qualify for asylum support, comprised of cash support (£36.95 per person per week) and no-choice accommodation in ‘dispersal’ areas across the UK.
When an asylum application is turned down, people who have no right to appeal become ‘refused asylum seekers’. At this point, they lose their asylum support and cannot work, or access mainstream benefits and housing. This situation is known as having ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF).
Most of the people supported through NACCOM member organisations are destitute refused asylum seekers. They have often fled torture, war, persecution and imprisonment before arriving in the UK and fear for their lives if they go back (although this is what the UK government expects them to do).
Those who remain in the country face destitution until they manage to re-engage with the asylum system or find another route to status. Life is extremely difficult and risks of exploitation are high. Without charity support or community networks, people struggle to survive.
Destitution can also be experienced by refugees, who have been granted ‘leave to remain’ but face delays with accessing their National Insurance numbers and other forms of identification, so are unable to claim benefits or access employment. These problems, often caused by delays in the system, are exacerbated by the short ‘move on’ period (28 days) that refugees have to leave their asylum accommodation after receiving their papers.
Destitution can also be experienced by migrants who have fallen on hard times since arriving in the UK. There are a wide range of reasons for this. Some will have faced domestic abuse but due to being on spousal visas will have no access to support. Victims of trafficking can also find themselves homeless after the 45 days of support offered in government-funded safe houses. Whatever the reason, a combination of delays and faults in the immigration system and lack of legal advice means that many people in these situations can find themselves left with nothing to live on.
For more on our aims and activities see our Vision page.
Housing schemes may support refugees (whose rent provides an income stream for the project), destitute refused asylum seekers and others who have no recourse to public funds. Examples of housing schemes include partnerships with Housing Associations, agreements with Landlord/Privately owned properties, Managed Properties, Church-owned properties and properties owned by the project (for instance, bought with donations from supporters).
Hosting schemes are typically comprised of networks of volunteers offering a spare room to someone who would otherwise be homeless, either on an emergency basis or for a longer period of time. Schemes operate differently in various towns and cities and there is also an online scheme (Refugees at Home) that matches volunteers with those in need. We support new schemes to get established and develop their services- see the Hosting Toolkit for more details.
Night shelters provide a crucial source of emergency relief for those who would otherwise be street homeless. In some cases, bed spaces are available to destitute refused asylum seekers only but in other instances, bed spaces are offered to anyone in need. Some night shelters in the network are permanent but others are winter-only.
Our 2016-17 Accommodation Survey, as detailed in our latest Annual Report, highlights the estimated total number of Destitute Refused Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants accommodated by NACCOM Members in the last year was 1,907 (an increase of ~14% since 2015-16).
Of the projects involved in the survey, there were 19 housing schemes, 24 hosting schemes and 4 night shelters, collectively providing 272,931 nights of accommodation in 2016-17.
If you contact us via our phone number (0161 706 0185 – open during office hours, Monday-Friday) or our Contact form, we will endeavour to signpost you to a relevant project.
Information on all our members can also be located in the Projects Directory.
Other useful sources of information about support options for people at risk of, or facing destitution, are:
The NRPF Network – a network of local authorities and partner organisations focusing on the statutory duties to migrants with care needs who have no recourse to public funds
Project 17– a charity working with families experiencing exceptional poverty to improve their access to local authority support.