This website uses cookies for anonymised analytics and for account authentication. See our privacy and cookies policies for more information.

The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Sinister move by Home Office could have "disastrous impact" on charities


Moves to charge for advice

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is warning that proposals to charge advice agencies providing immigration advice fees could have a disastrous impact.

The Home Office is currently consulting on introducing charges for bodies providing immigration advice.

Immigration advice is regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner, who charge fees for those providing immigration advice to pay for their regulatory activity.

However, CABs across Britain have a block exemption and are classed as a non-fee charging sector​. The regulator is proposing a system which would see CABs charged registration and re-registration fees which could cost the network in Scotland hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. CAS estimates set up costs could be over £300,000, with ongoing costs around £223,000 per year.

In a consultation response, CAS warns the impact of these changes would place a financial burden on CABs already struggling with demand and have a potential ‘chilling effect’ on the recruitment and retention of advisors.

Derek Mitchell, CAS chief executive, said: “These proposals could have a potentially disastrous impact in communities across Scotland.

“CABs are already facing huge levels of demand, often from people in a state of crisis and with complex cases. We need more funding to deliver advice, not to be charged for helping people.

“It will also have a chilling effect on advisor recruitment and retention, and potentially decrease availability of all advice across Scotland.

“What these proposals fail to recognise is the wraparound nature of our advice service. People don’t come to a CAB with just one problem and four in ten cases advisors deal with are complex, requiring multiple different types of advice, restricting access to any type of advice makes it harder to help people.

“Last year 12,743 pieces of immigration-related advice were given to 4,406 people by CABs in Scotland. These clients didn’t just get immigration advice – they got help on housing, employment and energy as well. By restricting our ability to help these clients with immigration issues, it restricts our ability to help with everything.”

One area where non-UK nationals need advice is in around employment rights. In one case, a CAB helped an Iranian woman who was refused statutory entitlement to holiday pay and statutory sick pay for just under two years.

The client was ultimately dismissed for refusing to accept cash-in-hand payments below the National Minimum Wage and refusing to commit benefit fraud.

Another CAB helped an EU national who had unexplained deductions taken from her wage. The woman suspected that her employer is discriminating against her as an EU national because he does not expect her to understand her employment rights.

In another case, the mother of a child under one, who does not speak English as a first language and recently fled domestic abuse received support from her local CAB to navigate the social security system to access the Scottish Child Payment and Best Start Grant for her child.

Another CAB helped a recently widowed woman who was working part time but had no access to other support as she was on a spouse’s visa. She was supported to rectify her immigration status and also access support through a food bank and school clothing bank for her child.



Be the first to comment