Destitution services

The Lifeline Service offers crisis intervention to destitute or insecurely housed refugees and asylum seekers in order to find safe shelter, legal support and the help they need to rebuild their lives.

The service consists of a highly proactive crisis intervention programme, including a proactive advice service to get people legal support, a community hosting service (Room for Refugees) to provide safe shelter and crisis funds for the destitute through our Emergency Relief Fund. In Glasgow, the Lifeline Service plays a leading role in assisting those at risk of eviction or experiencing delays, housing issues or human rights abuses under Mears or Migrant Help, the agencies contracted by the Home Office to support and accommodate refugees and asylum seekers.

Covering mainly Glasgow (and to a lesser extent elsewhere in cities of dispersal) the Lifeline Destitution Service provides advice, information and practical support to refused asylum seekers who are left at risk of destitution and need assistance with identifying their options, Section 4 applications, finding legal support and accessing crisis grants or shelter.

The charity provided proactive advice, information and support to 321 households recorded on our AdvicePro System (plus an additional 175 unrecorded households) from refugee and asylum seeking families and individuals at risk of destitution in Glasgow. 

The purpose of this advice was to assist people to avoid or survive destitution and seek legal resolution. 

Caseworkers assisted service users with reinstatement of support, e.g. Section 4, or to gain resolution with their legal case or deal with Home Office correspondence. Caseworkers also helped people to request moves from hotels into accommodation.

During the year, our casework team helped 2544 families secure Section 4/95 support and 5 families secure Leave to Remain. 

Emergency Relief Fund

The Emergency Relief Fund exists to help those suffering severe hardship as a result of destitution or disaster. The fund is paid for by donations from members of the public. Referral partners who register with Positive Action in Housing can also make referrals.

In 2020-21, Positive Action in Housing distributed hundreds of emergency crisis payments totaling £168,993 (£59,405 last year) to over 1,009 households. 

The 1,009 households, comprised 1,960 direct beneficiaries, consisting of: 1,486 adults and 472 children. 

This is almost a three-fold increase since 2019-20 primarily because of Covid 19 recovery. 

We assisted with emergency crisis grants, heating grants , food vouchers and travel grants , and mobile phone top ups for refugees and asylum seekers and migrants. 

These life-saving grants were primarily used to prevent hunger and destitution and supported people in their mental health during the lockdown as well as with emergency crisis grants, heating grants , food vouchers and travel grants , and mobile phone top ups for refugees and asylum seekers and migrants. In addition to crisis grants,  the Emergency Relief Fund also assisted with digital tech, travel grants, heating grants, food vouchers, free PPE and more under the Humans of Glasgow programme funded by the Scottish government) because people were losing their jobs without pay, or lost loved ones to Covid 19 and had no money because they are not entitled to recourse to funds. 


The UK prime minister expressed incredulity that people could be left without money and promised to look into it. He seemed not to know that it was government policy to leave people without recourse to funds and effectively trap them in poverty. 

The UK government has, for much of the past decade, been operating what itself terms a “hostile environment” for some migrants. Following various scandals, the hostile environment has become the “compliant environment” but, behind the name, little has changed. 

The condition of “no recourse to public funds” is one of the least known elements of the hostile environment but it is also one of the most damaging. Many of those assigned the status of no recourse to public funds have a leave to remain in the UK, but are prevented from accessing a range of benefits. These include income support, child tax credit, universal credit and housing benefits. Most asylum seekers who apply for immigration status are trapped in this limbo. As undocumented people, they have no right to work. As applicants with a temporary permit to remain, they have no right to social welfare.

Nearly 1.4 million people are thought to have had no recourse to public funds in the UK in 2020 – including 175,000 children. The system is carefully crafted to relieve the government of any legal obligation to provide resources. As the government cannot legally force these people back to their home countries, it encourages them to leave by making their lives impossible.

Since 2012, the Home Office started putting no recourse to public funds conditions on people in the process of legally settling in the UK. This includes families with British or settled children or partners who have been living and working in the UK for years.

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