The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 makes provision for accommodation and support to be provided to destitute asylum seekers and their dependants.
Support can be applied for by filling in Home Office form ASF1.
Asylum support: S.95 support
Once an application for support is made, the Home Office will provide s.98 accommodation and/or support to someone who ‘may’ be destitute while their application for asylum support is assessed.
S.95 provides a definition of destitution. An asylum seeker is destitute if:
- S/he does not have adequate accommodation or means of obtaining it.
- S/he has adequate accommodation but cannot meet other essential needs. In these circumstances, the asylum seeker will be granted subsistence-only support.
When making a decision on whether someone is destitute, the Home Office has to consider whether they are or will become destitute within 14 days. It is able to take into account any income, support or assets that the person might reasonably be able to access. Only the following are classed as assets:
• Cars or other vehicles
• Goods held for the purpose of trade or other business.
Continuation of support services for victims of trafficking: s.4 support
In certain circumstances, the Home Office can provide accommodation and support to an individual who has been granted temporary admission to the UK, has been granted immigration bail or where they have made an application for asylum but the application has been refused.
The individual must be destitute or becoming destitute in 14 days, and satisfy one of the following criteria:
- S/he is taking all reasonable steps to leave the United Kingdom.
- S/he is unable to leave the UK due to a physical impediment to travel or some other medical reason.
- S/he is unable to leave the UK because there is currently no viable route of return available.
- S/he has made an application for judicial review in relation to his asylum claim and permission has been granted.
The provision of accommodation is necessary for the purpose of avoiding a breach of a person’s Convention rights. This may include circumstances where someone has made further submissions to the Home Office or where their solicitors are taking steps to judicially review a decision to refuse to grant leave to remain.
Home Office support: appeals
A person who has been refused s.95 or s.4 support can appeal the decision to the First-tier Tribunal (Asylum Support).
Asylum support: Dispersal
Accommodation is usually allocated on a no choice basis.
As a general rule it is provided outside of London and the South East of England. However, the Home Office’s policy on the allocation of accommodation states that Home Office officials must consider all requests to be allocated accommodation in London, the South East or another specific location. The guidance states that:
‘All requests should be considered on a case by case basis, balancing the overarching principle that accommodation is offered on a no choice basis against the strength of the exceptional circumstances that might make it appropriate to agree to the request to provide accommodation in a particular location.’
Requests to remain in London or the South East should be supported by evidence.
The guidance sets out a number of circumstances where accommodation may be provided in a particular location:
- Treatment from Freedom from Torture/ the Helen Bamber Foundation
Persons who have been accepted for treatment or who are receiving treatment from either organisation should be provided with accommodation as close as possible to the treatment centre.Where a person is seeking support from the Home Office for the first time and has an appointment with either organisation for an assessment, the Home Office should consider deferring the decision about where to accommodate and continue providing support under s.98 until the assessment has been completed. Consideration should also be given to requests to provide s.95 support close to a treatment centre pending an assessment.The guidance states that if a person is receiving treatment in London, they should be accommodated within Zones 1-6. If the person is receiving treatment in one of Freedom from Torture’s regional centres, they should be accommodated within one hour’s travel to the centre.
- Medical treatment
The Home Office will normally disperse someone who is receiving medical treatment. The guidance states that requests should be refused but consideration will be given to exceptional circumstances or where a move would disrupt the medical treatment. Additional guidance is contained within the Healthcare Needs and Pregnancy Dispersal Policy on how to assess whether pregnant women should be dispersed and people with certain medical conditions.
The guidance states that consideration should be given to not dispersing someone away from London or the South East where there would be an unreasonable disruption of any treatment or assistance to cope with their disability or where they are receiving assistance and support from a local authority.
- Family ties
The Home Office must consider whether any dispersal will interfere disproportionately with a person’s right to a family life.
If a person has a child with special educational needs and has a place at an appropriate school, they should not be moved away from it unless there is another school that can provide the same services. The guidance states that the Home Office will only normally temporarily grant accommodation in a requested area where a child is in the final year leading up to GCSE, Scottish Highers, AS or A-Level exams.However, any decision to disperse a family where a child is in education may be open to challenge. This is because the Home Office has to take into account the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the UK. The child’s best interests are a primary consideration, although not the only one.The guidance states that fair treatment must meet the same standards as for a British child. The Supreme Court held in a recent homelessness case that it was not enough just to consider whether the child is approaching GCSEs or other examinations.
The Home Office should take into account requests to be placed within a reasonable travelling distance of a place of worship.
Home Office support: Appropriate accommodation
It is possible to challenge unsuitable asylum support or s.4 accommodation under this heading. There may be additional arguments where the individual has a positive conclusive decision. Examples include:
- Geographical location
- Single sex environment
- Own room
- Additional support
- Continuation of support services for victims of modern slavery.
Legal aid for housing and support
- There are less restrictions placed on legal aid for housing and support issues than for immigration cases.
- Legal aid is usually available for housing advice where an individual is homeless or facing homelessness.
- Legal aid is not available for completing an application form for asylum support. It is available if legal advice and/or representation are required with the application. For example, where an individual should not be dispersed or where a potential victim wishes to extend their NRM support rather than applying for asylum support.
- It is subject to a means and merits test.