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Civil news: ideas to improve asylum work set out in report

Asylum report into quality of legal services is welcomed by Legal Aid Agency (LAA).

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A number of suggestions to improve the quality of work provided to asylum seekers are outlined in a report from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The report on ‘the quality of legal service provided to asylum seekers’ is “very welcome” according to LAA Head of Contract Management John Sirodcar.

He said:

The principles outlined in the report are in line with what we expect from firms under legal aid contracts and I would urge anyone working in this area to take a look at it.

As the report says, asylum seekers can be some of the most vulnerable of clients. Many will be reliant on legal aid support to obtain high quality and appropriate advice.

We will continue to work with legal aid firms to help them deliver the service clients need.

Improvements

Areas where the SRA report suggests improvements could be made include:

  • explaining the legal process
  • not relying too much on processes/pro-formas
  • ensuring suitable interpreters are available

Appeal issues

A number of concerns with the appeals process are spotlighted in the report, which focuses on the need for experienced practitioners. This is seen as essential for constructing well thought out and properly evidenced submissions.

A specific problem is an increase in the number of ‘totally without merit’ (TWM) decisions. The SRA has issued a guidance note to help when considering judicial review applications – see below.

Client interests

John Sirodcar said:

We agree with the SRA view that it is important to maintain the right balance between access to justice and making sure appeals are in the best interest of the client.

That is a view that we would expect all legal aid firms to support. The SRA are committed to taking action when regulatory breaches are proved and we believe they are right to do so.

Further information

Asylum report: The quality of legal services provided to asylum seekers

Ethics guidance: risk factors in immigration work – scroll down to ‘judicial reviews’

Published 25 January 2017