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Micro Rainbow, a charity that supports LGBTQI+ migrants, were funded by the Immigration Advice for Rough Sleepers Fund for a project working with specialist LGBTQI+ organisations and project partners at Wesley Gryk Solicitors. Part of this funding allowed them to become OISC accredited advise providers.

In this blog we take a look at the impact of that accreditation on the organisation and their service users (OISC refers to the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner, which is the regulatory body for immigration advisors in the UK).

How the project worked

Taking referrals from organisations such as Stonewall Housing, the Albert Kennedy Trust, Latin American Women’s Aid, and Rainbow Migration, Micro Rainbow worked with people across London who were rough sleeping and in need of immigration advice. They also accepted self-referrals. Once a person had been referred, Micro Rainbow’s own OISC accredited Level 1 advisor, a role funded by the IARSF, was able to carry out assessments and work on simple issues immediately.

One of the biggest benefits of this was that Micro Rainbow could maintain an close working relationship with people while offering holistic support at the same time. As part of the project, people could also be referred to Micro Rainbow’s partners, Wesley Gryk Solicitors, who worked on a flat fee per case basis. Wesley Gryk were funded by the IARSF to carry out initial assessments of clients’ immigration needs. This meant people were able to be referred on to Legal Aid providers and were more likely to have their case taken on or that they received high quality advice after their initial meeting.

Impact of the Fund

One of the key impacts from this project was the creating more access to OISC accredited advice. Micro Rainbow have described the accreditation as “life-changing” and have gone on to have two more members training for the accreditation. Having an OISC accredited advisor in the organisation meant that there were people who could be offered advice immediately, without the need for an onward referral.

Becoming OISC accredited allowed Micro Rainbow to work with people who are hard to reach and could easily fall through the gaps in services. They were also able to build more of a profile for themselves because they could now provide this kind of advice, which in turn allowed them to formalise partnerships with organisations like Latin American Women’s Aid. More referrals were made as a result of this partnership and they were able to work with more people from the Latin American community, who cannot claim asylum.

Lessons learnt

The impact of OISC accreditation, allowing Micro Rainbow to reach more people experiencing homelessness and build more partnerships from this, was one of the most significant learning points , as was the need for interpretation and the provision of emergency housing. There was a universal learning across the funded projects that there was a challenge in maintaining engagement from rough sleepers. One of the solutions to this was providing appropriate and secure accommodation where people could engage with services more easily.

Micro Rainbow’s project shows the need for homelessness and emergency accommodation services to be OISC accredited as well as the gap in provision of this service. Offering OISC accredited advice alongside their holistic support has allowed Micro Rainbow to identify a cohort of people who are hard to reach and easily left out of services.

The funding from IARSF has also meant that Micro Rainbow is able to address that issue because they are now OISC accredited.

The funded work carried out by Wesley Gryk Solicitors also highlights the need for high quality immigration advice. The early legal assessments that Wesley Gryk provided meant that people were more likely to be able to access the Legal Aid support that they needed.

The Immigration Advice for Rough Sleepers Fund was funded by the Greater London Authority and managed by Homeless Link. This is the first in a series of blogs, leading up to the launch of the IARSF learning report, looking at three grant holders from the fund. Look out for our next blog, released next week.