Evaluation of the Frontline Immigration Advice Project

Charitonos, Koula; Witthaus, Gabi; Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes and Anastopoulou, Stamatina (2019). Evaluation of the Frontline Immigration Advice Project. The Open University, Milton Keynes.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00069180


The UK asylum system is extremely complex and tough. People seeking asylum require expert advice and support to successfully navigate the complexities of the refugee protection system. They often turn to non-legal expert organisations in the Community and Voluntary sector for help, which according to UK legislation must be regulated to provide immigration advice. However increasingly such organisations are not always able to provide the advice refugees and people seeking asylum urgently need, due to lack of regulation. Strengthening organisational capabilities to provide immigration advice through appropriate professional development is a high priority in the refugee sector.

The work detailed in this report contributes to the evaluation of the Frontline Immigration Advice project (FIAP) (April 2016 – March 2019), delivered by Refugee Action and managed by staff at the Good Practice and Partnerships Team at Refugee Action. The FIAP aims to strengthen the systems supporting vulnerable people by supporting non-legal expert organisations to provide free access and appropriately regulated good quality immigration advice. The FIAP also works strategically with organisations in the Community and Voluntary sector to build their expertise and capacity to provide immigration advice, tailored to their specific context and needs, and linking them with immigration advice practice networks to sustain their provision of this service. Finally, an important part of the FIAP is work around raising awareness among organisations regarding the importance of legal advice and barriers to immigration advice giving with an aim to strengthen their practice and models of advice without necessarily becoming registered and/or regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). Overall the project aims to increase the immigration advice capacity of non-legal specialist organisations in order to i) improve access to legal advice for people who need it and ii) improve their working with legal specialist organisations to facilitate this access.

The scope of this report was defined according to the agreement between the Open University (OU) and Refugee Action. In the period following January 2018 and until March 2019, quantitative and qualitative evidence was collected and analysed from a number of organisations and advisors who registered and participated in the FIAP, as well as through interviews with members of staff at the Good Practice and Partnerships Team at Refugee Action and the OISC. Evidence was also collected from participant observation in the Level 1 Training which was delivered over a week in November 2018.

The report presents a synthesis of the evidence collected in the final phase of the evaluation project. The analysis focuses on identifying tensions within the Immigration Advice system by maintaining attention on the FIAP, alongside the various benefits that organisations and trainees experienced as a result of engaging with the FIAP.

By publishing the final report of the evaluation project, as with the previous two reports that have been produced, we synthesise evidence of the impact the FIAP had on advice organisations and their context as well as the people using their services, by considering the wider Community-based Legal Advice context within which the FIAP is located/operating. These findings will help shape the next iteration of the FIAP programme and will benefit not only Refugee Action, that commissioned this work, but also the advice organisations and their workforce that are committed to support the most vulnerable and provide access to justice.

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