Legal aid providers call for systemic change to immigration legal aid system

updated on 01 September 2023

Reading time: two minutes

In a joint letter to the lord chancellor, legal aid providers have warned that the immigration legal aid system requires systemic change.

More than 60 legal aid providers that represent around 60% of the immigration and asylum advice sector signed the letter, which stated that the system is at capacity and will be unable to deal with any unfunded significant increase in work without change.

The letter makes several suggestions to help improve the state of the immigration legal aid system, including:

  • hourly rates increased to £100 for all legal aid controlled work (in line with inflation since 1996);
  • enhanced rates where work is of exceptional competence, skill, expertise, speed, circumstances of complexity; and
  • cost of accreditation for casework assistants and senior caseworkers funded in full by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The MoJ’s proposal to bump hourly rates by up to 15% for work under the Illegal Migration Act (IMA), which received royal assent in July, has been described as unworkable and inadequate by the firms that’ll be expected to take on the increased demand, according to the Law Gazette.   

The legal aid providers calling for change also highlighted that around 25,000 asylum seekers in the UK don’t have legal representation. 

Plus, there are additional concerns regarding the “unsustainable burden” that the IMA’s introduction will put on providers. The letter explains: “To undertake the work, providers must recruit significant numbers of new staff, train them, and ensure that they have the necessary Law Society immigration and asylum law accreditation. Moreover, the urgency of the work means that if a fee-earner takes on an IMA matter, they will in essence have to drop all other work at least until representations are made to challenge the removal notice.”