The Immigration Advice for Rough Sleepers Fund (IARSF) was established by the GLA in 2021 and managed by Homeless Link. Homeless Link awarded a grant to Micro Rainbow to establish partnership-based projects providing immigration advice for rough sleepers and those who were imminently homeless. The objective was to increase free immigration advice and specialist support for non-UK national rough sleepers, to improve the integration of homelessness and immigration service and embed specialist immigration advice in rough sleeper support services.
On 26th September 2022, Homeless Link launched its full report: ‘Learning Report for Immigration Advice for Rough Sleepers Fund’. The report explores the outcomes for Micro Rainbow, as well as the other seven grantees across London, which worked to improve immigration advice for non-UK national rough sleepers.
Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development at the Greater London Authority said about the work funded through the IARSF:
“I am proud that through the Mayor’s Immigration Advice for Rough Sleepers Fund some of the most vulnerable members of our society have been able to access immigration advice and support to find a route out of homelessness”.
The CEO of Homeless Link, Rick Henderson, said about the crucial work that was funded as a result of the IARSF grants:
“Everyone deserves a safe place to live and the support they need to maintain it, regardless of where they’re born. But people not from the UK often experience rough sleeping due to their immigration status barring them from accessing key resources. All our research shows that access to good quality immigration advice is critical to help this group leave rough sleeping behind. This fund has shown what can be achieved when this is funded properly. We hope the learnings from the project lead to more areas prioritising immigration advice as part of their support package to people sleeping rough.”
What the Homeless Link grant enabled Micro Rainbow to do
Micro Rainbow was funded by the by the IARSF for a project working with specialist LGBTQI organisations and project partners at Wesley Gryk Solicitors. Part of this key funding allowed Micro Rainbow to become Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) accredited advice providers.
During the project, Micro Rainbow was able to work closely with people who were rough sleeping across London and in need of immigration advice. Micro Rainbow was also able to take specialist LGBTQI referrals from Stonewall Housing, Latin American Women’s Aid, the Albert Kennedy Trust and Rainbow Migration, as well as accepting self-referrals. Micro Rainbow’s OISC accredited Level 1 adviser was then able to carry out assessments and work on simple issues immediately.
The partnership with Wesley Gryk Solicitors meant that Micro Rainbow was able to connect beneficiaries with appropriate legal advice, as well as providing much needed holistic support, such as housing. Those with unmet immigration needs were referred to Micro Rainbow’s OISC Level 1 Adviser. If the OISC Adviser was unable to close the case, the case was referred to partners at Wesley Gryk Solicitors, on a flat fee per case.
Wesley Gryk Solicitors was funded through the IARSF grant to carry out initial assessments of clients’ immigration needs. The partnership meant that clients were given high quality advice as a result of connecting with the service. In most cases, Wesley Gryk was able to onward refer these cases onto Legal Providers, and these clients were more likely to have their cases taken on as a result.
Impact of the funding for Micro Rainbow
The funding has been hugely impactful for Micro Rainbow, allowing us to provide OISC accredited advice to clients immediately, as well as increasing the immigration advice provision across London. The accreditation also meant that Micro Rainbow was better able to work with hard-to-reach people, provide additional, much-needed services, and formalise new partnerships, such as with Latin American Women’s Aid.
The addition of an accredited OISC adviser at Micro Rainbow has increased our profile with organisations working with homeless people in the capital. This has meant that vulnerable people can be signposted to relevant and specialised support more appropriately. Having an accredited OISC adviser within Micro Rainbow has provided a new dimension to the support we can offer. The clear benefits of having this kind of organisational knowledge led to us starting the process of accrediting two more members of staff.
The project with Homeless Link demonstrated that having OISC accredited members of staff can improve the advice and services given to clients in the first instance. Offering accredited advice alongside holistic support has allowed Micro Rainbow to identify a cohort of people who are hard to reach and easily left out of services. As mentioned, the clear benefits of having this increased staff knowledge had led to Micro Rainbow investing in the training of two more staff members. The partnership with Wesley Gryk Solicitors enabled people to have timely legal assessments. This meant they were more likely to be able to access the Legal Aid support they needed. The success of these timely assessments with Wesley Gryk Solicitors highlights the crucial need for high quality immigration advice for people who are sleeping rough. The OISC accreditation of Micro Rainbow staff goes some way to addressing this issue.