The Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) has asked clients not to attempt to visit its offices and has blamed government legal aid cuts for going into administration.
IAS, the UK’s largest provider of publicly funded immigration and asylum legal advice, went into administration over the weekend.
A statement now published on its website tells clients not to visit any IAS office in person, even if they have an appointment booked, because all offices are now closed for such purposes.
It advises clients to seek new representatives as soon as possible, and to make their application or appeal as soon as possible.
The statement says that the government’s decision to remove immigration, which accounts for 60% of IAS’s income, from the scope of legal aid has made the IAS no longer financially viable.
It said a 10% cut in legal aid fees for refugees seeking asylum had also impacted badly on its revenue.
The statement continues that the IAS has been in discussion with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in an attempt to gain support for a solvent restructure of its operations.
It adds that IAS has also tried to reach an agreement with the LSC for an extended period to repay monies that, ‘in common with many other firms’, had been claimed in error - partly, in IAS’s view, due to the complex funding rules in place.
IAS said no agreement could be reached, and its trustees decided that they had no alternative but to place the organisation into administration.
The statement says that IAS administrators will be working closely with the LSC over the next few days to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for all of its clients.
Clients are advised to monitor IAS’s website, where updates on arrangements will be posted.
The statement adds that the IAS has written to all tribunals and courts asking them to deal sympathetically with applications for extensions of time in which to lodge appeals or comply with court or tribunal direction until clients find new representatives.
The charity, which has been in existence for 35 years and employed 300 staff at 14 locations across England and Scotland, is known for the important legal precedent cases it has taken through the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights and other courts.
IAS trustees chairman John Scampion said: ‘It is a very sad day for us all, and I would like to pay tribute to the staff who have worked diligently and professionally through what has been very difficult and trying circumstances, and to reassure IAS’s clients that everything possible is being done to protect their interests during this very difficult time.’
An LSC spokesman said: 'The IAS’s decision to go into administration is theirs alone.
'During recent stewardship activities LSC raised concerns around financial management and claims irregularities which prompted IAS trustees to conclude that the organisation was no longer financially viable.
'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. We are now identifying alternative advice provision in the areas affected and arrangements for case transfer will follow as soon as possible.
'Anyone who needs immigration advice should contact the Community Legal Advice helpline on 0845 345 4 345.'
Stephen Cork and Joanne Milner of Cork Gully LLP were appointed as joint administrators to the IAS Friday 8th July.