The West Midlands Immigration Network is a project funded by the Justice Together Initiative (JTI) designed to build the quality and provision of Immigration advice across the West Midlands. Four partners have come together to develop this support.
The West Midlands Immigration Network, a three-year project funded by Justice Together Initiative, is a collaboration between the Refugee and Migrant Centre, Brushstrokes, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke on-Trent and Hope Projects.
Our objective is to work towards strengthening the provision of free immigration advice across the West Midlands, enabling marginalised migrants to better access free, regulated, legal advice, understand their options and access the support they need to ultimately settle in the UK.
Immigration Advisors Network
As part of this project, we set up the West Midlands Immigration Advisors Network where advisors working across the West Midlands can meet every six weeks and discuss cases, legal updates, training opportunities.
The purpose of the Network is to act as a forum to promote professional development and contribute to capacity building through information sharing, presentations, training and mutual support to strengthen the quality of the services we provide and work better together.
Mentoring & Training
At the heart of this project is the mutual support provided amongst immigration advisors from different organisations within the West Midlands.
This project is allowing partners to use the resource and increase capacity to provide specialist immigration advice to people across the West Midlands.
RMC is leading on monthly ‘study groups’ with members of all the organisations of the Immigration Advisors Network to share knowledge and support each other. This is allowing organisations to increase their capacity to provide regulated immigration advice and for further training for existing staff.
Further, Brushstrokes are coordinating the Sandwell Immigration Practitioners Network, a network that promotes collaboration and support between smaller organisations in the Sandwell area.
Outreach & Collaborations
The network has enabled Hope Projects and Citizens Advice Staffordshire North & Stoke (CASNS) to collaborate, expanding Hope Project’s from Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country to also include Stoke and North Staffordshire and creating a new referral pathway for CASNS to allow destitute refused asylum-seekers in Stoke-on-Trent to access specialist immigration advice and assistance provided by Hope Projects.
Brushstrokes are undertaking outreach activities with regular immigration advice sessions in Lye, Halesowen and West Birmingham.
RMC and Brushstrokes are working in collaboration to provide a 6-month pilot, advice service in Dudley. This service will be delivered from Provision House and will provide drop-in advice sessions 4 days a week including; immigration advice, general advice, ESOL and employability.
All partners value the important of lived experience in the provision of immigration advice.
CASNS will be working with local organisations and their Lived Experience Group to develop a resilient local network of front-line agencies working with and supporting vulnerable migrants.
With funding from this project, Hope Projects have already recruited a trainee caseworker with lived experience of the immigration and asylum system who is currently training to become a regulated immigration advisor.
With a network of experts, it allows better provision to those we support. The partnership has led to an increase in specialist advice for those No Recourse to Public Funds, wider access to OISC accredited immigration advice and input from those with lived experience.
Central England Law Centre on behalf of the West Midlands Immigration Advisors Network, asked Coventry MP Zarah Sultana, to request that the Home Office advise as to whether those in this position would be granted indefinite leave to remain.
One year on from the launch of the project, our report aims to present some of the achievements of the Network and highlight the importance of working in partnership to increase capacity, improve quality and build teams resilient and equipped to work in the challenging field of free immigration advice provision.
West Midlands Immigration Network Partners
The Refugee and Migrant Centre (RMC) is an award winning charity founded in 1999. It has offices in Wolverhampton, Walsall and Birmingham and works with clients from across the Black Country and Birmingham.
RMC have a team of qualified and experienced caseworkers, accredited to Level 1, 2 & 3 with the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). The team offer a wide range of support to clients who include asylum seekers, refugees, EU migrants, undocumented people and those with uncertain immigration status.
Our service provides casework, advice and guidance on immigration, housing/homelessness/destitution, welfare, education and health. Alongside this, we also provide English classes, dedicated support with citizenship and employment and run resettlement schemes.
Brushstrokes in Sandwell is a community project which works with the whole of Sandwell’s community, specialising in the needs of asylum seekers, refugees and newcomers to the UK. Our holistic approach ensures that we cover not only early action integration and settlement advice, but also provide advice around securing housing, benefits, employment, health advice and multi-level English Education as well as practical resource support through our food bank and clothing bank.
Our immigration advice is regulated by the Office of the Immigration Commissioner (OISC) and our Advisors can provide immigration advice and services up to immigration level 3.
Hope Projects helps people who have been made homeless and destitute by flawed refusals of asylum.
Our legal service makes sure that people understand why they have been made homeless by the asylum system and what they may be able do to challenge this.
Our housing and destitution fund services provide safe housing and money for food and essentials for people who we believe have been made destitute by a flawed refusal of asylum
Our wellbeing service helps destitute asylum seekers access medical care and activities to boost their wellbeing.
CASNS mission is to use advice work, capacity building and training to address poverty and inequality. Alongside providing advice to clients, CASNS provides:
- Training to frontline staff/ volunteers in third sector organisations.
- Volunteering opportunities.
- Awareness-raising on equality and community cohesion issues.
- Capacity building, coordination, and resource to local groups/networks.
CASNS has strong links with many residents and community groups, and has been providing immigration advice since the late 1980s and is currently registered at Level 3 with the OISC.
CASNS also leads the local Service Providers Group and are developing and supporting a local group of people with lived experience of the immigration and asylum system.