Almost a year ago we covered in our newsletter the collapse of non-for-profit legal charity Refugee and Migrant Justice. Today the story is reprised for the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS).
The demise of the IAS is nothing less than catastrophic for access to justice in the city of Leeds. The firm was contracted to deliver fully 97.1% of all legally aided asylum work in the city and over 70% of all legally aided asylum advice in West Yorkshire. Its demise leaves Harehills & Chapeltown Law Centre, contracted to deliver just 52 cases per year, as the only legal aid provider in Leeds.
The IAS’s trustees have placed the blame for the organisation’s insolvency squarely on the government’s proposals to remove immigration (but not asylum) cases from the scope of legal aid and to cut the payments for legal aid work by ten per cent across the board.
However, since this time last year, sources have been suggesting to PAFRAS that the organisation was on the verge of insolvency due to the pressures placed on the organisation it by reforms of legal aid introduced by the last government.
In January of this year we published a briefing on legal aid which noted that the reforms have placed enormous pressures on legal aid providers to reduce the amount of work done for clients or to swallow the costs. Not-for-profit organisations like the IAS and RMJ before them, especially because they are reliant almost completely on legal aid contracts and unable to cross subsidise unprofitable legal aid work have been especially badly affected.
For PAFRAS service users, many of whom were inevitably clients of the Immigration Advisory Service, the firm’s unexpected and sudden demise is shocking. Service users who have worked for many months with case workers at the firm, patiently sourcing new evidence for fresh asylum claims, now face a period of great uncertainty, and significant delays while they try to find new legal representation, for the most part, outside of Leeds.
For PAFRAS too this will be a challenging period as we struggle to help service users secure new representation and to provide the funds to ensure they can travel to meet their representatives.