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Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration examines the Home Office's approach to vulnerable adults

Date of Publication: 
11 January 2019
Summary: 

David Bolt's latest report focuses on how frontline staff identify and support vulnerable migrants

Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration examines the Home Office's approach to vulnerable adults

11 January 2019
EIN

David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, yesterday published a comprehensive inspection report on the Home Office's approach to the identification and safeguarding of vulnerable adults.

The 60-page report can be read here.

The Independent Chief Inspector explains: "In this latest report, I have explored both the overall BICS [Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System] approach to vulnerability and what is happening on the ground when Border Force, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), and Immigration Enforcement (IE) encounter vulnerable adults."

The inspection focused on frontline staff in Border Force and Immigration Enforcement, specifically:

  • How they identify vulnerable adults during encounters with non-detained migrants.
  • How they are trained, supported and managed to understand and carry out their safeguarding responsibilities towards vulnerable adults.
  • How they record information about vulnerable adults on Home Office systems.
  • How and when they pass on vulnerable adults internally to another Home Office unit or to another relevant agency.

Those the Home Office considers as being 'vulnerable' include: victims of modern slavery and other forms of immigration crime; refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection; people suffering mental health crises; survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence; and victims of hate crime.

The Independent Chief Inspector finds: "Based on this and the earlier inspections, I am in no doubt that the BICS Board, senior management, and the majority of staff are serious about improving the protection provided to vulnerable individuals. A good deal of effort is already targeted at particular, well-delineated 'cohorts', such as children and PvoMS [Potential Victims of Modern Slavery], and other vulnerability-focused work is ongoing across BICS to improve training, raise awareness, and capture information."

David Bolt added, however, that much remains to be done to develop a consistent understanding of what is meant by 'vulnerability' and to develop the appropriate response, and progress is too slow.

The report says that while there is a well-developed understanding within the Home Office of vulnerability in the case of children, when it comes to vulnerable adults, the policies, guidance and practice have been developed with "no overarching strategy, and a risk of duplication, failure to make best use of shared expertise and lack of coherent approach with partners."

The report states: "Adult vulnerability is a complicated area, and one where BICS/Home Office is by no means the expert. Border Force, UKVI and IE each recognises that it represents a serious ('Red') risk. Meanwhile, other public bodies, such as Social Services, the NHS, and the police, are further ahead with their definitions of vulnerability, and with clearer instructions to their staff about their 'duty of care', and with their frontline processes. While BICS is already aware of and is working with these bodies, more systematic partnering might move its work on vulnerability forward at a quicker pace and with fewer missteps."

Following his inspection, the Independent Chief Inspector made four recommendations that cover:

  • Creating a detailed Programme Plan for delivering an effective response to the vulnerability and safeguarding challenges facing BICS.
  • Reaching out to other agencies with greater knowledge and expertise in dealing with vulnerable individuals.
  • Spelling out to BICS staff their 'duty of care' when they encounter vulnerable adults.
  • Ensuring that how each of the BICS directorates assesses and manages risk in relation to vulnerable individuals is fully aligned with the departmental goal of "Protecting Vulnerable People and Communities".

In its response to the Chief Inspector's report, the Home Office accepted all of the recommendations.

David Bolt said: "I am pleased that the Home Office has accepted all four recommendations and look forward to checking on its progress in the course of inspections and re-inspections of BICS' handling of various forms of vulnerability planned for 2019-20."