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Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Trust for London report examines provision of immigration advice in the voluntary sector

Summary:

How not-for-profits have improved capacity, efficiency and accessibility of advice since LASPO

Date of Publication:
18 May 2020

Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Trust for London report examines provision of immigration advice in the voluntary sector

18 May 2020
EIN

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF) and Trust for London earlier this month published an interesting new report on methods of increasing the capacity of immigration advice provision.

VisaThe 129-page report can be read here. It was commissioned by PHF and the Trust for London and authored by Ceri Hutton and Jane Harris from On the Tin Ltd.

It looks at how voluntary sector organisations have improved the capacity, efficiency and accessibility of immigration advice provision across the UK in the wake of the major cuts made by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).

The report notes that between 2005 and 2018, the number of legal aid providers with immigration and asylum contracts halved. Amongst not-for-profit (NFP) organisations with legal aid contracts, the reduction was even greater with 64% of all providers lost during the same period.

The report adds: "Provision of immigration advice has significantly reduced since LASPO and people have difficulty finding specialist advisors to take on their case. In some parts of the country, or for some kinds of issues, that difficulty is greatly compounded: 'advice deserts' now make finding any legal support in some areas impossible.

"If a person's legal issue is out of scope and they cannot pay for legal advice, they are dependent on a thinly spread network of provision, largely based on NFP providers operating nationally or in rarer cases locally. It is difficult for such people to find any advice at all."

The report finds that faced with the paradox of an increasing need for immigration advice and decreasing funding and capacity to meet it, voluntary organisations have sought to 'do more with less'.

Research for the report sought answers on:

  • How are organisations trying to increase capacity in immigration advice provision, and what is the nature of the capacity created?
  • How are organisations increasing accessibility of immigration advice and for whom?
  • Is quality addressed by any of these methods, and if so in what way?

PHF and the Trust for London explained: "This research is about the ways in which the voluntary sector has adapted to meet need when government policies and practices have failed. Over two years we conducted 110 interviews, received various written submissions, held six learning sets and conducted an extensive literature review. Through this work we found nine methods which in some way increase the capacity of the not-for-profit sector to meet immigration advice needs."

The report includes a detailed description of each method, with examples of how it is used, the clients and types of cases it seems appropriate for, how it produces efficiencies and the limitations people have found.

While the report was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, PHF and the Trust for London say the research and recommendations are as relevant now as before, possibly more so.

They said: "Providers are already adapting some of the methods described in response to social distancing rules and there is scope for other methods to be taken online. Above all, the people who took part in this research are skilled at adapting to challenging circumstances. Given the creativity and resilience our research found, we know they will again. We hope our research helps them do so."