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Asylum seekers are not eligible for mainstream welfare benefits. Instead, if they are destitute, they can apply to UK Visas and Immigration for accommodation and/or financial support (‘asylum support’). As a general rule, asylum seekers are not allowed to work whilst they are waiting for an asylum decision.

Accommodation is provided on a no-choice basis, generally outside London and the south-east of the UK, under the longstanding ‘dispersal’ policy.

In previous years asylum support rates have varied according to the claimants’ ages and household compositions. Since 10 August 2015 a new standard rate has applied to all adults and children, resulting households with children receiving a lower amount of support than before. The Government says that they can make use of economies of scale.

Asylum support is terminated once a final decision has been made on an asylum application (i.e. when there are no further appeal rights). Asylum seekers granted permission to remain in the UK become eligible to work and access mainstream welfare benefits. Refused asylum seekers are expected to leave the UK. They have few support options, although some may be eligible for a more limited form of cashless support (known as ‘section 4 support’) if the Home Office accepts that there are temporary barriers to their departure. The Immigration Bill 2015-16 would make changes to this.

Local authorities are responsible for support to unaccompanied asylum seeking children. They have very limited duties to support destitute adults subject to immigration control who have care needs.

This note provides a brief summary of the asylum support arrangements and recent scrutiny reports. Other Library briefings on asylum, including those on Viral emails protesting about financial assistance for “illegal immigrants/refugees living in Britainand People from abroad: what benefits can they claim? might be of interest.

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  • The Government is reviewing its policy on restricting asylum seekers' rights to work. The current position is that people seeking asylum can only apply for permission to work if they have been waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim for over 12 months. Those who are given permission can only do skilled jobs on the Shortage Occupation List.