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LSC starts transfer of client files from collapsed IAS to local providers

22 July 2011

Client files from the Immigration Advisory Service, which went into administration on 8 July, have started being transferred to new legal advice providers, Solicitors Journal has learned.

The transfer follows “an overwhelmingly positive response” to the Legal Services Commission’s letter to existing immigration contract holders last week inviting them to express interest in taking over the collapsed charity’s caseload, the legal aid body said.

According to the LSC, current providers have the capacity to take on 28,145 cases, which would allow both the urgent and additional work to be absorbed. The exact number of cases, including urgent and non-urgent cases, is expected to be finalised next week (beginning 25 July). The LSC said all 8,000 or so urgent cases have been, or will shortly be, taken on by current providers. It also confirmed that new matter starts will be available to providers.

In addition, the LSC said it has asked judges and UKBA to deal with adjournment requests “sympathetically” until clients are properly represented.

News of the closure was first circulated on legal aid website iLegal over the weekend of 9-10 July, before IAS staff were informed on Monday 11 July.

Following the latest immigration contract bid round IAS became the largest provider in many regions, even securing 80 per cent of new matter starts in the Manchester area.

A former IAS adviser who was made redundant on 11 July, and has now found employment with one of the local providers taking on some of the IAS caseload, told Solicitors Journal remaining IAS staff have not been allowed to do any more than send out documents that had already been prepared before the charity was shut down.

She confirmed that files from other offices have started arriving in Manchester but was doubtful that the remaining local providers would be able cover the IAS caseload between them. She also said that file transfer was not necessarily taking place on a new matter start basis.

“People who are still there have been preparing files for transfer, and sending off applications that had already been prepared and were waiting to be photocopied,” she said. “And they’ve been told they can have one to two months to wind it up.”

On her last day at IAS she said staff “weren’t allowed to do any proper billable casework, though we got away with doing a certain amount pro bono”. A few days later, some of her colleagues were going to court “begging for an adjournment for a client IAS could no longer represent”.

On the morning staff were told about the closure, she said, there was security outside the office, stopping clients coming in. “Just what torture victims need, being pounced on by a load of big men in suits in what’s meant to be a place of safety. We’ve been letting clients with impending deadlines know, and I assume many will look elsewhere.”

She added that their union would be assisting with a group unfair dismissal claim.

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