Shopping Around

Over the years it is hard to say how many Immigration firms I have seen hounded out of business, or at least their Legal Aid contracts. I use the word “hounded” without equivocation – at one point I was doing weekly Cost Committee hearings, all with potential existential consequences. Even when we won (and we were in over 80% of audits) this experience alone was often enough, and the firm just walked away or worse.

This was a supplier base they drove a coach and horses through the rules to create; faced with the sudden dispersal of asylum seekers, to under-supplied regions, they dumbed down supervisor requirements and offered financial incentives to entice firms on board. A couple of years later they smashed it all up, deliberately I think.

Since then the harassment of Immigration firms has been more low-key, though persistent. The only firm we knew who came through the earlier years with an unblemished record have recently been subject to a similar punitive “reinterpretation” of basic Contract rules.

So if you represent asylum seekers on legal aid, you have almost certainly experienced doing this whilst fighting at least a border skirmish with the LAA.

So where is this history lesson going you might ask?

It seems that whilst one arm of the state is harassing asylum seeker’s legal representatives, another wing of the state is “incentivising” civil servants to get them deported. There is a “carrot” for meeting the HO 70% “success rate” whilst firms face the KPI “stick” if they lose more than 40%.

Forget the stupidity of such mismatched “targets” and have a think about how any of this fits with the proper administration of justice. Perhaps you cant go beyond finding the offer of “high street shopping vouchers”, to Home Office presenting officers, in such cases, as morally debased as I do.

Why, however, am I not more surprised?

About Author: SP

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