Homelessness amongst refugees leaving the asylum system has been on the rise over the last year, in large part due to a change in process to the asylum move-on period, introduced by the Home Office in August 2023 (but since reversed), which left many newly granted refugees suddenly facing homelessness when their accommodation and support was abruptly ended after their grant of status.  

As we head into Spring 2024, the outlook for new refugees leaving the asylum system, and the organisations that support them, is still extremely challenging. In this blog, we look at the impact of what is widely regarded as an ongoing refugee homelessness emergency, how this continues to impact frontline services, and how other groups of people exiting the asylum system – those who have been refused, and those whose claims have been withdrawn – are also being left increasingly vulnerable to homelessness due to pressures on both statutory and voluntary services.

Evidence from the NACCOM network 

Voluntary services play a vital role in providing safety, shelter and stability to people leaving the asylum system. In 2022-2023, the impact of homelessness amongst refugees was already being acutely felt across NACCOM’s network of frontline members, with capacity severely stretched due to high demand for homelessness and destitution support from people in the asylum and immigration system.   

Hosting and housing schemes across our network accommodated at least 864 refugee adults (excluding dependents) last year (2022-2023) – 33% more than in the previous year, and 54% more than in 2020-2021. 

The increased pressure caused by the escalating refugee homelessness emergency has had a profound impact on member service provision, with some NACCOM members reporting that referral rates had more than tripled during August 2023, compared to the same period the previous year.  

One NACCOM member, the Boaz Trust, recently reported that in 2023 they saw an 102% increase in the number of referrals for accommodation for people with refugee status, with a doubling of referrals in the second half of last year.  

What our members are seeing

In February 2024, NACCOM asked members providing services to refugees how key aspects of their service delivery had been impacted by the increase in refugees leaving asylum accommodation. Whilst some members reported that referral rates from newly granted refugees were still high, others reported that, even though referral rates had now stabilised, the increased demand for their services from refugees had knock-on impacts for their service provision more widely; 

➡️ “We are…receiving referrals for and are seeing at dropins newly granted refugees who are homeless and rough sleeping. Our service can’t assist these people as they don’t need immigration advice, but this is taking up the time of our partners who work with homeless migrants.” 

➡️ “Our Caseworkers are meeting/working with a high number of young people who have been granted asylum and are now homeless. While the pre December spike had been people approaching [us] with notices to quit (and fairly short notice periods – around 10 days was fairly common) our caseworkers are now seeing more young people who are *already* homeless. They are approaching our frontline staff at our youth clubs/drop-ins, which are specifically for residents of asylum hotels and/or in the hotels when we run outreach sessions (even though they no longer have a room there, they are spending time there).” 

➡️ “We have received 26 referrals in January (2024) up until now (29th January) – these are only the referrals we’ve officially received for accommodation and don’t capture the numbers of people contacting us directly (by phone, email, at the office etc) who are in need of support – this has been almost daily throughout January.” 

➡️ “Overall referrals requests/calls to our helpline were up from 552 to 667 in the period August-December 2023 compared to the year before.” 

➡️ “We have had to close our waiting list January 2024 for one month as we have so many people on our waiting list.” 

➡️ “We are noticing partner agencies are also under more pressure and taking longer to provide support. Whether it’s legal/immigration advice, mental health support, physical health (dentists!). Waiting lists are longer and organisaions are stretched; this means more pressure on the ground. It keeps getting harder for asylum seekers to access support they desperately need.” 

Insights from the network also highlight a growing concern around the rates of people with ‘unsuccessful’ asylum claims (refusals) exiting the system, as well as those who have received a ‘withdrawal’. In both cases, numbers have been rising over the past few months, as the Government continues to clear the asylum backlog at pace.  

In our February cessations survey, some members reported how frontline services now had limited capacity to support these groups, given the overwhelming and ongoing impacts of the refugee homelessness emergency on support and accommodation provision; 

➡️ “While the majority of people we are working with who are leaving the asylum system because of a grant of status, we are also working with an increased number of people who have been refused (a small increase, but the previous number was basically zero as everyone’s cases were stuck in the backlog). We are not working with many people who have had their asylum claims withdrawn, though of course know many other organisations are.”  

➡️ “We haven’t seen a change in the number of people whose asylum case was refused or withdrawn, what has changed is that those people are getting evicted from their accommodation faster so are more likely to be homeless than they were earlier in the year.” 

➡️ “We’ve…noticed a longer wait for section 4 applications to be processed. As a result residents are waiting longer to move on and so those on the waiting list are waiting longer to get a bed space.”