Inspections on the Home Office's Chief Caseworker Unit; the EU Settlement Scheme; ePassport gates; and queue management at Birmingham Airport
Four new reports by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration are published
13 January 2022
Four new reports have been issued this week by David Neal, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI).
The 36-page An inspection of the effectiveness of the UKVI Chief Caseworker Unit's referral process can be downloaded here.
It examines the work of the Chief Caseworker Unit (CCU), which was established in 2018 to champion culture change across the Home Office in the wake of the Windrush scandal.
David Neal said: "The inspection found that the CCU had a positive reputation amongst internal stakeholders, and the referral process was clear, straightforward, and functioned well. CCU's staff had extensive experience of the Home Office and showed themselves to be dedicated and engaged in their work.
"There were, however, four areas which required attention. Firstly, the internal service level agreements for the completion of work on a referred case had been set without consideration of the complexity of many of the referrals received and were therefore often not met. Secondly, the business support function of the Chief Caseworker Unit (CCU) was over-stretched and required additional resources. Thirdly, the management information used to monitor cases and assess performance was poor. Finally, the inspection also highlighted the need to refresh and refocus CCU's engagement strategy to ensure it adequately supported the unit's aims and objectives."
With regard to the management information used by the unit, the ICIBI's inspection concluded that it was not accurate and subsequently not trustworthy, leading to vagueness as to what the CCU was actually achieving.
The report notes: "It was unclear how staff were able to assess the success of the unit in achieving their objectives using this poor-quality data. There appeared to be limited managerial or staff interest in developing metrics which would enable the robust evaluation of the impact of the unit. One senior manager, in response to a question about what success looked like, said 'It's continuing to deal with systemic issues in a timely fashion, landing professionalisation programme on a mandatory basis, having a complex casework function.' This lack of concrete deliverables, and reference to vague concepts such as 'changing the culture of the Home Office', another often cited vision of success, is problematic."
The 127-page report A further inspection of the EU Settlement Scheme July 2020 – March 2021 is available here.
While the report has only just been published now, it should be noted that the report was largely authored in April 2021 and was completed in July.
The report looks at the efficiency and effectiveness of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), focusing on how the Home Office responded to the issue of vulnerability and how it sought to encourage and accommodate applications from those who are vulnerable or hard-to-reach.
It finds that the scheme largely operates as a quick and efficient means of securing the rights of EEA citizens in the UK, but there are areas where improvements can be made.
The report notes, for example: "The Home Office speaks with pride about the EUSS' 'comprehensive vulnerability strategy', and the vulnerability workstream had remained a key priority for the department. However, the strategy itself, produced in March 2018, had not been formally reviewed since inception, with no holistic monitoring or evaluation conducted of its impact on specific vulnerable cohorts, or of learning and improvement applied."
The 104-page report An inspection of ePassport gates (June 2020 – January 2021) can be read here.
The inspection included an examination of the identification of vulnerable passengers at ePassport gates. It highlights: "Stakeholders told inspectors that the gates make it harder to identify vulnerable passengers. From interviews and focus groups, it appeared that some [Border Force] managers and frontline officers shared this belief. Inspectors spoke to officers at Glasgow Airport who had had success in identifying potential victims of modern slavery by closing the gates and ensuring that all passengers on certain 'high risk' flights were examined by a [Border Force Officer]."
As with the EUSS report, the publication of the ICIBI's inspection on ePassport gates was delayed by several months.
Finally, the short 24-page report A short inspection of Border Force queue management at Birmingham Airport based upon onsite observations is available here.
It follows a short-notice inspection carried out in September 2021 at the UK's seventh busiest airport. The report finds: "Inspectors observed no issue with queue lengths, or breaches of the service performance standard, and the flow of passengers through the airport was generally good, despite the small size of the arrivals hall. However, there was an absence of a clear and consistent approach to queue measurement, which is integral to effective queue monitoring and workforce planning."
As noted, several of this week's ICIBI reports were not recently authored and their publication was delayed considerably by the Home Secretary.
David Neal expressed his disappointment, saying: "My predecessor highlighted how this delay challenged his independence and I am similarly concerned, and it is a matter that stakeholders raise with me frequently. In her Windrush Lessons Learned Review, at Recommendation 10, Wendy Williams recommends that the government should review the remit and role of the ICIBI, to include consideration of giving the ICIBI more powers with regard to publishing reports. I look forward to this review. In practical terms, the delay to the publication of this report means that decisions on the scope of our fourth inspection into EUSS has been delayed unnecessarily."