Developing instrumental, long-term relationships

How funders can make life easier for charities

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit took part in our Duty to Care? research project. We asked them about their recent experience of working with trusts and foundations.

Tell us about Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) advises, supports, represents and campaigns with people subject to immigration control.

Representing over 1,000 people at any one time, we are a team of specialist solicitors and case workers for those claiming asylum or in other precarious, immigration-related situations like trafficking or domestic violence.

What has changed about your work – and how you work with trusts and foundations – over the past five years? How have you responded to this?

Since 2012, there’s been a significant surge in cuts for legal aid and public sector funding. It’s an important challenge that caused many charities around us to flounder – like the Asylum Support Housing Advice (ASHA), who helped between one and two hundred people a week. We felt like the only ones left standing, so we knew we had to respond: we took on all the charity’s employees, so we were able to get people onboard by rescuing other services.

Key to our survival and stability is our team of highly skilled, well-established solicitors and support staff. We also have a mixed income stream formed of a legal aid contract, funding from Manchester City Council, trusts and foundations, and some donations.

Added to that, there are more people sleeping on the streets now than ever before so the Mayor has put the issue of homelessness at the top of the agenda. This has provided us with a key platform to get our voices heard and the chance to engage at a new level – now when we suggest a cheap way to resolve an immigration or asylum issue, Manchester City Council can hear us and back our efforts.

What could trusts and foundations do differently to make your life easier?

First and foremost, we need core funding to strengthen our management and finance infrastructures so we can start to invest in ourselves. Fast and flexible processes also help a great deal; when we took on AHSA, one of our funders got us £25,000 to secure the first year, which removed the emergency from the situation and made a huge difference.

We also want to develop more instrumental, long-term relationships with funders. That would enable us to discuss the future of GMIAU, and be able to pilot ideas that might improve our organisational sustainability and service delivery. For example, Legal Education Foundation supported GMIAU to test out a new model for reuniting refugee families – and to run an intense scale-up programme looking at how to replicate the model and generate income. Ultimately, this could lead to a more sustainable organisation, that reunites more families over a longer time period.

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