After a frustrating two-year wait, and pressure from parliamentarians and refugee campaign groups, the government has published its review of the Post Grant Appointment Service (PGAS). The PGAS, which began as a pilot project set up by the Home Office and the Department of Work and Pensions in 2016, aims to provide a “more personal level of service”1 to newly recognised refugees in the immediate weeks following a positive asylum decision.
One of the provisions introduced as part of the PGAS is that refugees are offered an appointment to set up their first benefit payments, along with clearer information about how to access benefits, including a phone call. However, in the first 18 months of the pilot, 40-50% of refugees did not receive support at all, and those who accessed Universal Credit still faced a period of destitution unless they took up advance payments (which the majority of refugees did not).
In response to the findings, Chair of the Commons Select Committee, Frank Field MP, stated: “The Government is simply sticking its head in the sand. It knows that the 28 day period just isn’t long enough for people who’ve fled persecution, violence and war…. When will it face facts, and make some real changes?”
Ahead of the evaluation’s publication, last month NACCOM launched ‘Mind the Gap- One Year on’, highlighting the risks of homelessness amongst refugees after leaving asylum accommodation. The report found that 23% of guests in a sample of night shelters across its network last winter were refugees, of whom 36% were known to have left asylum accommodation in the previous 6 months. NACCOM has called for the government to commit to an extension of the move on period, as well as more scrutiny of, and learning from, its own efforts to improve the process.
Hazel Williams, National Director of NACCOM, commented: “It’s clear that even with these new measures in place, delays in delivering support to new refugees are causing hardship and destitution at a time when people should be enabled to settle in the UK. It’s unacceptable that there is an in-built delay of five weeks with new Universal Credit claims, when newly recognised refugees are given only four weeks before their support stops. These policies are fundamentally incompatible, and it is clear that the length of time that refugees have to move on from asylum support is central to the issue.”
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