We want to do everything we can to provide a service that is accessible to those who need us. This is why every week our advisers walk new clients through a comprehensive needs-assessment survey, and take the time to carefully monitor the progress of past cases.
The data helps us learn more about our clients and their issues. It documents our work to help our partners understand what we do, and monitors our outcomes to enable us to assess our impact, and improve our service. All data is collected, stored, and processed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations 2018, and all figures are updated quarterly. For further insight, please see our case studies.
2022 was a year of high inflation, rising living costs, and record increases in the price of rent. All of these dynamics increased the need and the urgency of advice, at the intersection of immigration, employment, benefits, and housing. Over the course of the year, our team assisted a new WoRC record of 1414 clients, who raised a total of 1541 separate issues with us.
The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, which started in February 2022 and led to the biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII, led thousands of Ukrainians to seek assistance and refuge in the UK. Indeed, 32% of our clients were Ukrainian (see Demographics). The subsequent launch of the government’s new Ukraine visa schemes meant that Ukraine-related queries dominated the immigration agenda, affecting 40% of clients who requested immigration advice.
At the same time, it is important to observe the high number of enquiries about the EU Settlement Scheme we continue to receive, in spite of the deadline for most applications under the scheme having expired on 30 June 2021. As the post-Brexit reality of new immigration controls and right to work checks began to take shape, many EU citizens and their family members continued to need support to make an application, contest decisions, or prove their status digitally. Overall, as many as 39% of the people who asked for our team’s support with an immigration issue in 2022, had a question about the EU Settlement Scheme.
Notably, at least 5% of our clients this year were undocumented and had no valid immigration status in the UK. The overall figure is likely to be higher, given how we only started collecting this data in March 2022. For these clients, circumstances are increasingly precarious, as both their rights and the quality of advice surrounding the enforcement of their rights in the UK are complex and often limited in scope
2022 was a year of financial hardship for many of our clients. As the war in Ukraine exacerbated inflation and the global economic slowdown, our clients were part of some of the hardest hit groups. Just over half of them were living paycheck to paycheck and had no savings at all to rely on, and more than a third had just between 1-3 months of savings. Often, this meant that clients had to turn to their support networks for financial assistance, or take on costly debt. 40% of our clients told us they had to occasionally borrow money to cover their living costs in the last year, whilst 11% had to borrow money every single month.
Clients continued to require support in understanding and enforcing their employment rights during the year, and our team assisted 313 clients in this context. The majority of those who requested our help with an employment rights issue were working in manual occupations, in sectors like cleaning, construction, hospitality and agriculture (see our Demographics page).
Many came to see us in order to understand the precise terms of their employment contracts, but 2022 also saw an increasing trend of queries related to holiday entitlements and holiday or sickness pay. For migrants who worked in flexible zero hours positions, where rotas varied substantially from one week to the other, the calculation of time off and pay was often confusing, leading to disputes and an erosion of rights.
A sizable portion of clients also needed help to understand and access their rights around dismissal, as well as a strategy for recovering unpaid wages. Recovering hard earned wages for our clients is an important aspect of our service provision team’s work, and we often spend countless hours communicating and negotiating with employers, as well as drafting Letters Before Action to secure a positive result. Over the last year, we are proud to have recovered £34,336.19 in unpaid wages (learn more about our Outcomes).
2022 also saw a continuation of our employability work, and 278 clients approached us for assistance in this capacity. In the challenging economic climate, around 62% of clients who sought our team’s advice on employability were unemployed and were seeking employment, 16% sought assistance with professional qualifications and training, whilst another 13% sought assistance to move jobs. We are thrilled to note that, of clients who received employability advice in 2022, over a third had gained employment and 70% had undertaken training (learn more about our Outcomes).
The soaring cost of living led 194 people to seek our support in claiming benefits, accessing food vouchers in times of emergency, or understanding their entitlements to public funds. The majority of clients who received benefits advice from our team encountered some form of difficulty with Universal Credit, and a further 11% came to us with Child Benefit issues. Notably, 17% of benefit clients came to us with specific issues around Universal Credit suspensions or rejections. We have previously noted the DWP’s problematic practice of suspending Universal Credit payments without explanation, and this is a growing area of concern. The new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has promised to crack down on fraud as we move into the new year, despite the DWP lacking a transparent methodology for measuring it. As our service provision team can attest to, many clients are being erroneously affected by suspensions, drawing them into extreme poverty and destitution.
It is also interesting to observe that of the clients who had already applied for benefits before they saw our advisers, 49% had required the assistance of someone else to make the application, with as many as 26% paying for assistance. This points to the continued and problematic presence of ‘street advisers’ or self-styled ‘accountants’, who make a business of migrants' digital exclusion, and their struggles to access the UK's complex benefits system. We have covered this issue in depth in our Migrants and Taxes report (see our Research Reports page). Our team remains committed to further awareness raising in this context, to ensure clients only reach out to trusted organisations and advisers.
Though the last year was an incredibly difficult environment for clients, our service provision team were on hand throughout to provide information relating to benefits eligibility and entitlements. We helped clients to update their Universal Credit journals, to apply for Universal Credit and Child Benefit, and we also issued vital food vouchers in 15% of cases. The utility of our service was once again reflected in the feedback that we managed to receive from clients - all those that did provide feedback were very satisfied or satisfied with our service, and had their issues resolved or partially resolved. Though these figures are encouraging, as the UK falls into recession, we expect more clients will be turning to us and other organisations in securing different forms of financial assistance to help them traverse these tricky economic times.
In a year when house prices and rental costs increased exponentially, 27% of our housing clients came to us with issues relating to precarious housing conditions, while another 26% suffered from homelessness or problems with their landlord/estate agents respectively. Our team helped to provide information relating to tenants’ rights and responsibilities, social housing and eviction rights.
Many of those experiencing potential eviction and homelessness were Ukrainian nationals, pointing to issues inherent within the government’s Ukraine schemes, which we explored in our report, Six Months On.
Finally, 37 clients also came to us with a range of personal welfare issues. This included personal health issues, schooling needs, care needs, mental health issues and instances of domestic violence. We helped to give information relating to healthcare entitlements, but we also provided information about education enrolment processes and shared mental health and wellbeing resources. A big issue for clients was access to healthcare - while 71% had registered with their local GPs, a worrying 29% of clients had not. In these cases, our service provision team prioritised GP registration as a concrete outcome for clients, whilst other clients were also provided with ongoing mentoring and support.