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CIH Scotland

New Arrivals


People with social care needs

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Are you someone with social care needs?

If you are homeless and destitute and

  • have children in your family or household, or
  • are disabled, elderly or suffering from long term serious illness, or
  • in some circumstances are a young person who was once in the care of the local authority, or
  • are a child with no parents able or willing to accommodate you, including if you are undocumented, or
  • are a person 'in need' (including if you need care and attention because of drug or alcohol dependency or release from prison or other form of detention) where providing accommodation and/or support would avoid greater or later expense by the local authority

then, even if you are not entitled to council housing or benefits (as explained on other pages), you may be able to get limited help with housing and financial support from your local council. You must ask for this from the social work department. The law on this is complex, but generally you are a 'person in need' if you are elderly, disabled or if you have a long-term limiting medical condition. Because the law is complex you should seek legal advice and help before making an application, if you can

What documents might you be asked for?

If you ask the social work department for help with housing or financial support, they will check why you cannot get help from the housing department or from state benefits, which means checking your immigration status. They will often check this with the Home Office. They may also want details of where you have lived, to decide which social work department should take responsibility for you.

Social work help

You will only get help from the social work department if you have children or social care needs. The help may be basic accommodation, food vouchers or money.

If you are an asylum seeker with children, you will not get housing or living costs from the social work department because the Home Office should house and support you if you are destitute.

If you are an asylum seeker who has social care needs you can ask the social work department to house you.

But even then, if you

  • have refugee status in another European country and not the UK, or
  • are an EEA national who does not have the right to reside in the UK as an EEA student, EEA worker or self-employed person, person with the permanent right to reside or a family member of one of these, or
  • are a refused asylum seeker who has not cooperated with removal directions, or
  • are an overstayer or someone who entered illegally or who has broken the immigration laws

then, the social work department does not have to provide you with any help at all except the minimum necessary to avoid a breach of human rights. In some cases, this might be simply offering you the fare home.

If it is impossible for you to go home because of one or more of these:

  • you cannot travel because you are ill or disabled
  • your children have been in the UK so long it is unfair to make them leave
  • you have close family members in the UK who cannot travel home with you
  • you have lived in the UK so long it would be unfair to make you leave
  • you would not be safe if you went home

you can apply to stay in the UK. While you make the application you may be able to get housing and living costs from the social work department, although once the application is being considered by the Home Office you may be able to get asylum support from the Home Office, depending on the type of application. Get advice about this if possible before you go to the social work department.

If you are the sole carer of a UK citizen child (because the child has no other parent with a right to live in the UK who can look after them in the UK) you have a 'right to reside' in the UK (there is more about this on the page for British and Irish citizens).  This allows you to work but not to claim basic benefits or apply for housing or homelessness assistance from the council.  If you are destitute you can, however, get help from social services.

Other housing help

All people with social care needs can apply for accommodation from housing associations but may face problems if they cannot show how they would pay the rent. You can also apply for accommodation from a private landlord but may face checks on your immigration documentation if you live in a part of the UK where this law is now in force.

There are some small charitable projects that offer food and shelter to destitute people. Contact one of the advice agencies to see if one may be able to help you. There is more detailed advice on the page for destitute migrants.

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing