Learning about the Benefits System
Community Sponsored families arrive in the UK with full rights which means they are entitled to the full range of benefits.
IMPORTANT: The funds raised by Community Sponsorship Groups should NOT be used for the family's basic living costs beyond - at most - the first couple of months. So, while a Group might decide to help pay part of the family's rent in a high cost housing area, welfare benefits should be covering all the family's basic living costs.
Of course, this means the family won't have much to live on - and that can be hard for them and for the Group sponsoring them. But the families have to manage, just as other benefits claimants in this country do.
Giving cash subsidies to sponsored refugee families is not sustainable and only fosters an unhealthy financial dependence. The job of a Community Sponsorship Group is to help the family to achieve financial independence through budget assistance, helping them to get all the benefits they are entitled to, and - crucially - helping them to find work.
Benefits - What You Need to Know
Before the family arrives, you should be starting the process of learning about the benefits system and making contacts with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Area Refugee Group Lead and the manager of the local Jobcentre Plus (JCP). These contacts will be invaluable once the family arrive, and they will help you navigate the complex benefits system. One group even brought flowers to the JCP Job Coach in advance, to butter them up!
Below you will find lots of useful resources to understand the benefits system.
Attached - Introduction to UC for Community Sponsorship Groups
Attached - Tips For Supporting a Family With A Universal Credit Claim
Attached - Reset - Benefits Processes and Procedures
Attached - Reset - Universal Credit Briefing
Need Help? The DWP’s Refugee Group Leads Network
If your Job Centre Plus (JCP) has never worked with refugees before, they may be unfamiliar with the specific benefits and fast-track policies that resettled refugees are entitled to. When you meet with your JCP you should always be ready to advocate for these policies but if you find that staff are unaware of procedures or would benefit from specific guidance, you can contact the Refugee Group Lead who is the DWP representative specifically responsible to help refugees in your region to access benefits.
The DWP has established the Refugee Leads Network to provide an escalation route for unresolved issues involving refugees’ access to benefits and to act as focal points for standardising and disseminating information regarding refugees to JCP staff in their region. The Refugee Group Lead in your region will be able to confirm correct policies and relay this information to staff at the JCP.
Filling out the Application Form: 1.4 Social Welfare Income
1.4a. Have you identified Job Centre Plus locations closest to where the resettled family will live?
You can find the Jobcentre Plus closest to the family’s accommodation or around the area you expect them to live here: https://find-your-nearest-jobcentre.dwp.gov.uk/
1.4b. Please confirm that your group will attempt to pre-book appointments with this Job Centre Plus to take place within three days of the resettled family’s arrival.
Please note that this is an essential requirement as set out in the Statement of Requirements for Sponsors.
1.4c. How will your group support the resettled family to make a claim for social welfare income?
EXAMPLE ANSWER: We will ensure they have an email address, laptop, wifi and bank account.
We will book an appointment in advance at the Job Centre, which will be within 3 days of their arrival. Meeting in person will reduce the likelihood of something going wrong. Our Benefits Lead and a translator will attend with the family.
It is important that they feel empowered to manage their social welfare income independently. So, as soon as they are comfortable, we will encourage them to attend Job Centre alone, and to use their free interpretation service.
Our Benefits Lead will teach them how to understand and use the online journal. This will also be the subject of our ESOL classes.
The Benefits Lead will also explain how employment can impact their social welfare income and help them to budget accordingly.
The local Citizens Advice has offered additional support if necessary.
Note: If your Local Job Centre Plus sites don't allow for appointments to be pre-booked in advance of a family’s arrival, please ensure an appointment is booked at the earliest opportunity.
1.4d. Taking into consideration any potential impact of the benefit cap, how much social welfare income do you calculate the resettled family are likely to receive each week? Please provide the way in which you have worked out this calculation.