Saira Grant authors overview of immigration advice services in England and Wales
New Paul Hamlyn Foundation report examines the level of unmet need for immigration legal advice and representation
27 July 2020
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF) last week published a new report providing a detailed overview of immigration advice services in England and Wales.
You can read the 81-page report here. It was authored by Saira Grant, former Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).
PHF explained: "This report examines the level of unmet need for immigration legal advice and representation and looks at the impending immigration status challenges for European Union citizens. The report's author was asked to assess if the evidence showed there was a need to increase free immigration legal provision to support vulnerable people who have migrated, and to consider how any new immigration advice provision should be prioritised. This was to be addressed by providing an overview of the immigration legal sector, examining the different types of immigration advisers, assessing the impact of the changes to legal aid and considering the groups most vulnerable to harm or injustice due to a lack of immigration advice and representation."
The report focuses on immigration law as opposed to asylum law, though where existing data reference asylum services these are mentioned in the report.
Saira Grant said: "My report was not initially for publication but rather a piece of work that would inform PHF's discussions with other trusts and foundations on a strategic response to bolstering immigration legal advice. However, unpicking unmet legal need requires an understanding of who has that need and why and who is qualified to provide legal advice and to what extent. Thus, a short paper evolved into this report, which I am delighted is now being published."
Separate chapters of the report consider:
- The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and immigration legal aid
- The effect of LASPO and access to justice
- Legal advice deserts
- Undocumented people – subjects of the 'hostile environment'
- Mapping populations of people who have migrated and groups needing legal assistance
- Increasing immigration provision
The report concludes that the evidence demonstrates it is imperative to increase the number of free specialist immigration advisers as need significantly outstrips supply. Suggestions are given on some possible areas to explore to increase free immigration advice and representation. Finally, the report suggests that increasing immigration legal provision could provide an opportunity to create a more strategic immigration legal sector that could have a strong national voice, the ability to meaningfully assist vulnerable clients and to reform immigration law over the long term.
While the report was authored before the Covid-19 pandemic, Saira Grant noted: "As we slowly emerge from this crisis, the context in which this report was commissioned has certainly changed, but its fundamental finding — that there are very real immigration advice deserts — remains as pertinent as ever and the pandemic will sadly worsen not improve things.
"The recent lockdown and the social distancing rules that are now in place will only serve to heighten the difficulties vulnerable people will face in accessing good quality legal advice in an area of law where need considerably outstrips supply. I know those working in this sector are doing so with incredible resilience and creativity, and they need all the help they can get.
"I hope this report will shine a light on the need for good quality immigration representation, and the plight of a sector working for the good of all human beings, no matter what their country of origin, against all odds. I also hope it will offer some useful thoughts on how to increase free immigration provision and how the immigration legal sector can use Brexit as an opportunity to create a more strategic legal sector."