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PhD social work student gives advice to Labour leader at round-table on asylum seekers

23 August 2018

Glasgow Caledonian University researcher and PhD Social Work student Natalia Farmer was invited to attend a round-table discussion with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard on the current asylum seeker/Serco eviction situation in Glasgow on Wednesday, 22 August.

Natalia has a breadth of knowledge in the field and has provided written and oral evidence to the Scottish Government’s Equality and Human Rights Committee, which informed the report, ‘Hidden Lives – New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland’ in 2017.

Her research with the Asylum Seeker Housing Project in Glasgow has focused on the tensions between immigration legislation and social work practice, including the issue of ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF).

Natalia’s recent publication, 'No Recourse to Public Funds', insecure immigration status and destitution: the role of social work? (2017)  is drawn from her PhD research and explores the barriers destitute NRPF families encounter when attempting to access local authority support. 

After the meeting, she said: “It was a really good idea to have the round-table with Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard, and the Scottish Refugee Council facilitated that. There were a lot of people who wanted to express their concerns because this has been a high profile issue now in Glasgow for the last three years.

“We felt that most people did get their concerns across. I’ve done my research with the Asylum Seeker Housing Project and director Sheila Arthur also provided a lot of information about the cases they were dealing with. Jeremy Corbyn was sympathetic about what was going on in Glasgow.

“My recommendations were slightly different as most people there were talking about holding Serco to account. I highlighted that the local authority has the power to provide a safety net if Serco were to evict families.  So I wanted to raise awareness in regards to children’s legislation in Scotland and the tensions between social work and immigration legislation, but also highlight that social work is not a public fund, and has the power and legislative duty to provide support to families with ‘no recourse to public funds’. “

During the Scottish Parliament inquiry, Natalia made these key recommendations.

  • The creation of an advocacy service for those with NRPF and insecure immigration status
  • Update of the COSLA/local authority guidance so social workers are clear on best practice when working with those with an NRPF status.
  • Raised concerns over the increased relationship between the Home Office and social services.