Where to go for help

If you are seeking asylum in the UK you may be entitled to housing and/or money from the UK Government, depending on your circumstances. This is called asylum support and is usually provided by UK Borders Agency (UKBA).

If someone in your household has a disability or special needs

If you or one of your family has a disability or other circumstances that may affect his or her health or development, you may get extra support from social services – a department of the local council. Social services must always help a child in need.

If you are under 18 and alone in the UK

If you are an unaccompanied minor (ie a child or young person under the age of 18 who is claiming asylum and has no family in the UK) you are legally classed as a child in need and social services must make sure that you are looked after. For younger children, you would be taken into social services care, but after the age of 16 you may be supported to live independently. Social services must then continue to support you until you are 21 years old.

When you turn 18, social services may continue to support you until you are 21 years old, as you are classed as a care leaver.

Rights after an asylum claim has been decided

If your asylum claim is successful, you will have many of the same rights as British citizens. This includes the right to apply for housing benefit, help if you become homeless and council housing.

Your rights will depend on what status you have been given (ie refugee status, indefinite leave to remain, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave to remain).

If your asylum claim is refused, you have very limited options.

Health and education services for asylum seekers and refugees

Asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to health care from the National Health Service (NHS) and can see a doctor or receive hospital treatment free of charge. The NHS does make charges for some services, but if you are receiving asylum support you can ask UKBA to give you a form HC2, enabling you to get extra free health services

Your children will have a school place between the ages of 5 and 16, and you must make sure that your child goes to school.

Further help and advice for asylum seekers and refugees

Use our directory to find an adviser in your area or call Shelter's free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. Our advisers can provide interpreting services if you need them, and/or minicom for deaf callers. We can help you find a solicitor if you need one.

The Housing rights information website provides more information about the rights and options you have if you have recently come to the UK. It also includes information about getting help if you are suffering from domestic abuse or have social care needs.

If you were subjected to torture before you arrived in Britain, you may want to contact the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

If you need legal advice relating to your asylum claim, you could contact:

Alternatively, if you do not need specialist legal advice, you could contact:

Last updated: 1 January 2014