September 27, 2020
Lockdown challenged us to adapt to increased job losses, welfare claims and changes to people's immigration status. As well as seeing people who needed to renew their leave to remain in the UK, or wanted to regularise their position, we also saw clients who had leave to remain but had lost their jobs and could not access any benefits.
One of our priorities was ensuring that applications to renew leave to remain were made in spite of the difficulties that the pandemic caused. This is vital to protecting peoples' right to work, benefits and longterm right to remain.The lockdown caused long delays in getting decisions on immigration cases. Furthermore, employers don't always understand that the right to work has continued and we often have to provide letters to this effect to help clients keep their jobs whilst awaiting a decision.
Many families with children who were born in the UK or who arrived at a young age do not have legal immigration status which makes life extremely difficult.
A positive outcome has been discovering that we can effectively manage cases remotely for clients using the telephone and email. We are trying to keep client face-to-face contact to a minimum to keep everyone safe, but do see clients where necessary, and not all clients have for instance, access to email. We will continue to use what we have learnt to work more effectively when the current situation ends.Our clients who are making asylum applications or were trafficked to the UK are required to have face-to-face interviews. These interviews at the Home Office stopped during lockdown, and the delays for cases to be decided have got even worse. These clients have generally suffered great trauma so the stress of waiting to find out if they will be allowed to remain in the UK is enormous. The Centre also supported a large number of applications for income support for clients who had lost work and were barred from applying because of their immigration status or had never needed help before. In every case where we could we ensured that families had food, clothing and advice from the Centre to help them get through this extremely difficult time.
Jeanita, the Centre's Employment Specialist explains 'Hospitality workers, who were amongst the first to lose jobs in the onset of lockdown measures, are able to translate valuable customer service skills to telephone-based roles. As companies scramble to provide remote sales and service support to keep their businesses viable, we are seeing an increased market demand for those with soft skills' such as communication, effective listening and the ability to respond rapidly to queries and issues via phone and email.