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Here For Good: Overcoming the divisions of Brexit

We hate to be that person, but we’re here to talk Brexit: not in the usual dreary way, but one in which shows how despite the initial divisions it caused, a lot of good was able to come out of it.


Let’s set the scene: it’s 2016 the results of the Referendum have been announced and like many others, Tahmid Chowdhury and Isabella Mosselmans are concerned about the social impacts and the rights of EU citizens in light of this. However, rather than just mope around they decided to act on their concern and do something about it. With the help of Bindmans LLP, Here For Good was established in 2017, with the aim of providing free immigration advice to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who would not be able to access it otherwise. 


The size of the task at hand was colossal: the UK Government had set a deadline of the 30th of June 2021 for EU nationals living in the UK to have made an application to the EU Settled Scheme to remain in the UK. It was thought that up to 5 million EU nationals would have been affected by this and from our work with employers it was clear that the Government’s messaging and promotion of the Settled Status scheme was not reaching EU nationals living and working in the UK. There was therefore a concern that there would be a significant number of EU nationals who would not have the support of employers because they were not in work due circumstances and therefore not be aware of the importance to make this important application. The lack of messaging saw Here For Good to turn its attention to targeting individuals in these ‘advice deserts’. Paragon Law therefore collaborated with the Here for Good to provide a free service to vulnerable EU nationals. The partnership ensured that Here for Good would administer the service and Paragon Law would provide the legal advice. A free national telephone support line was set-up. An email support service was introduced later due to demand and free legal representation provided to EU nationals based in the Midlands who:


1.    Do not have access to technology or are unable to use it
2.    Are elderly or disabled
3.    Struggle with English 
4.    Are unable to afford legal fees
5.    Is a child in the care of the local authority

The project commenced with telephone support in March 2020 and was only due to last until June 2021, however, to manage late applications and react to refusals, the project has been extended to the end of the year. To date we have:


1.    Provided support to 290 callers
2.    Handled 230 email queries 
3.    Provided legal representation to 46 people 

 

Whilst this project has been firm-wide, it has been the actions of several individuals in particular which have worked to drive this project forward. Nigel Smith, Head of the Private Immigration Team has dedicated vast amounts of time to this project through implementing the various systems and processes needed for it to succeed. Whereas, caseworkers George Hanvere, Elliot Dipper, and Julia Crellin collectively gave up two days of their week to handling telephone enquiries, and providing the email advice and representation where needed. Despite being recent recruits, Paragon Law saw this project as an opportunity for these individuals to develop the managerial and legal skills which would prove useful in future work. The ability for these individuals to utilise this project in such an effective way has solidified the reasoning as to why Paragon Law prioritises building relationships with the local universities. Therefore, not only does this project show Paragon Law’s dedication to the local community through its free legal services, but through championing graduates of the local area and giving them a stepping stone to their future career it shows Paragon Law’s passion for helping future generations.
But don’t just take our word for it, here are some of our testimonials for this project:

 

“I have just received my Settled Status and am seriously overwhelmed to the point of collapse, am rather crying from exhaustion and anxiety. No words enough to say how immensely grateful to YOU for your amazing advice which brought me to success, without which I would have literally taken my life as I have no family to get any support.”


“You basically saved my life.”

 

“For me [the service is] perfect and doesn’t need improvement.”

 

“[My caseworker] was absolutely fantastic, very kind and patient.” 

 

“I have now been granted settled status and would like to thank you and your organisation for your invaluable help and the extraordinary amount of information you have provided. I can now stop worrying about Brexit and sleep at night.”