Trying to help can be difficult. Gathering the right information and find the right place can take a lot of time. Sometimes it can take a long time for documents to arrive or for departments to give you an answer.

What you need to know

Here are some tips to help you deal with officials in the UK.

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Always check to see if the organisation does what you think – Many people go to places thinking they can help, when they cannot. Be clear what you are asking at the start and ask if they can help. This will save a lot of time.

Let the organisation know you are coming before you set off – If you arrive without telling them first, they may not be able to see you. It is always best to call before setting off, or at least checking their opening times.

Be on time – If you arrive at an appointment late, they may not see you.

Be organised – Try and have all your information ready so it is easy for the person helping you.

Be clear about what you want – Think about what you want before you arrive. Practice asking with a friend.

Bring someone to help – Dealing with the system can be hard work on your own. It’s okay to have someone with you to help you communicate or to get your voice heard.

Be honest – It is always better to tell the truth. Government agencies will often refuse to help you if you lie, forget to mention important things, or miss things out. They are also very good at checking up on things so be warned.

Be patient – It is frustrating when you need help quickly and the system works slowly. But most people really want to help and will do the best they can. If you are nice to the person helping you, they will usually be nice back. If you get angry or shout, the person will tell you to leave.

Take notes of what people tell you so that you remember – Take the name of the person who helped you, and the date they helped you, so you can go back to them.

Take photos of the forms you have filled out – You don’t need a photocopier if you have a phone, and it may be useful if things get lost, or there is a problem

If you need help with forms or an interpreter – ask for one. If the service cannot give you this help, ask them to tell you where you can go to get this help

If you do not understand, say you do not understand – Ask people to tell you again, in different words

Be realistic – Sometimes what you want and what is on offer are very different. You may be disappointed with what the Council or other people offer you. They can only offer what they have.

Refugees do not usually get more help than other people – Refugees are expected to use the same welfare systems as everyone in the UK. This can feel very frustrating and unfair.

Different people get different things – The welfare systems in the UK are designed to help people in different ways, and to give most help to people with the greatest need. A family will get more than a single person. A disabled person will get more than someone who does not have a disability.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly, complain – Everybody makes mistakes. It is okay to complain. Be polite, be clear what you want, and remember that most people really want to help.

Where you need to go

In person

Some advice services can offer extra help advice and advocacy during the first 28 days that you are a refugee. Contact Refugee Employment Training Advice Service (RETAS)

28 Day Transition Project

If you want extra help to get your point of view across should contact an Advocacy organisation like Advonet


who may be able to help you

What you need to take with you

  • Your checklist of information
  • Original documents from the Home Office and other Government Departments

Other things to think about


It can help look at an organisation’s website before you visit them. The website will give you lots of useful information about opening times and how to contact them, as well as what they do.

By phone

When you are calling somewhere, it is good to start by asking if they can help with your question. Expect them to ask your name, your address and date of birth, as well as where you live. Practice spelling your name letter by letter.

Last Updated: 25 October 2019

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