Uniformed guards stop clients from entering IAS Manchester offices
18th July2011: Rape and torture victims were left unattended because of the collapsed Immigration Advisory Service last week, a former employee told the Law Gazette.
The employee said uniformed guards had stopped clients from entering the Manchester offices of IAS, which went into administration.
There were tales about discussions with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and the possibility of keeping just the profitable offices open – the north made a small profit last year.
The administrators told the employees that there were going to be job loss and they were divided into two groups and taken to separate rooms.
In a statement on its website last week, IAS suggested that legal aid cuts to immigration work had meant that the service was no longer financially viable.
The former member of staff, on anonymity, said employees first learned that the service was going into administration when the locks were changed at all 14 of its offices on Saturday 9 July, and notices posted on the doors.
As per the Law Gazette the employee said that just three hub offices – Manchester, Birmingham and Bradford – were allowed to open on Monday. The employees were told not to work on files or refer cases to other lawyers, even if a hearing was listed for that day.
The employee asserted that they could only watch through the windows as guards obstructed the clients from coming in. Some of these clients had suffered agony or were raped by other men in uniform and were still traumatised. She added “It was all very disturbing”.
The employees stated they even told the authorities to remove them from the building if they wanted to stop them from giving guidance to clients over the telephone. But the authorities let the employees stay.
The employee said ‘My group was told that the decision had been taken to make us redundant and we were each given a letter dated Friday, which must have been when the decision was made.’
It was asserted IAS had sought a time extension from the LSC to allow it to repay payments that, ‘in common with many other firms’, had been claimed in error. It said this had been partly due to the complexity of funding rules.
IAS trustees said they had been compelled to place the organisation into administration when no agreement could be reached. An LSC spokesman said: ‘The IAS’s decision to go into administration is theirs alone.”
The organisation website stated ‘Our priority now is to work closely with IAS and the administrators to ensure clients of IAS continue to get the help they need, whilst safeguarding public money.’
The LSC has now invited expressions of interest from immigration contract holders wishing to take on some of the IAS’s 8,000-file caseload.
Commenting on IAS’s closure, a Law Society spokesperson said: ‘While parliament debates further cuts in legal aid, news of the collapse of IAS has left thousands of clients stranded. This is the true impact of funding cuts. “
The spokesman added the government claimed that not-for-profit organisations like IAS will fill the gaps in public service provision.
The fact that this is the second such collapse in the sector, in less than a year, after Refugee and Migrant Justice closed in June 2010, depicted that these claims are little more than wishful thinking.