News News Asylum services update Migrant Help is a charity that has been operating for nearly 60 years, with support for people seeking asylum, refugees and survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery at the heart of everything we do. Within our asylum services, we have assisted 81,776 people seeking asylum in the past year (April 2021 to March 2022) and answered 529,622 calls to our free 24/7 helpline. We are doing everything we can in complex circumstances to ensure that our clients get the help and support they need. Since the start of our contract with the Home Office, to provide advice, issue reporting and eligibility services to people seeking asylum, demand has been significantly higher than was originally forecast. This has been compounded by the increased volume and complexity of calls during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw an increased use of hotels, restrictions in movements and processing, and much higher demand for remote support. The crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine and other extraordinary situations that are ‘outside of our contract’ have brought around 14,000 additional calls to our helpline in some months. We answer them and assist those calling us, as they are mostly people in desperate situations who have no one else to turn to. All of the above, alongside an increasingly hostile rhetoric towards people seeking asylum, mean that not only are our phonelines experiencing much increased volumes of calls, but our clients have more complex needs which our advisers aim to help resolve, or signpost people to organisations that can, such as mental health charities. This, of course, adds to the demand on our services, but our clients need this extra time and help. All this has been reflected in the waiting times on our helpline - and we know that they are longer that our clients need them to be. We sincerely apologise to everyone who has, at any point, been negatively affected by long waiting times. While we have not been able to comply with the contractual target of answering calls within 60 seconds, the average waiting time over the past year has been 16 minutes. In the past financial year, we have answered on average over 44,000 calls a month. We recognise that our response times need to improve and are addressing this with continuous staffing increases. In the last two years, we have grown the main helpline team more than seven-fold, and our specialist adviser team has tripled in size. This growth is ongoing, with more team members still being recruited to bolster numbers and further improve our service. It takes up to six months for a member of staff to be recruited, pass the required clearances, and receive sufficient training to be able to provide our clients with high level support. It is therefore not always possible for us to react immediately to sudden changes in numbers or circumstances but, as outlined above, our team sizes are increasing continuously. We conduct regular satisfaction surveys, and consistently score more than 75% for overall satisfaction with the service provided. This is also reflected in the number of complaints that we receive, when set against the number of people that we assist, and the volume of calls. In the past year that total was 275 complaints, each of which we take extremely seriously and do our best to respond to and address appropriately. Our asylum services are measured on a total of 15 key performance indicators, and regularly achieve our targets on most of these, including first contact resolution and delivering a timely and appropriate service to clients. This year, we have also set up a dedicated safeguarding team to create even more focus on the protection and wellbeing of the people we support. We are not perfect, but we care deeply, and we strive continuously to make our services better for those we work with. We operate in challenging circumstances, and we strongly believe that, as a charity that exists to assist people affected by displacement and exploitation, we offer humane, empathetic support to large numbers of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.