Home Office says it will now concentrate on cases with acute vulnerability, including unaccompanied children
The Guardian reported last week that it had learnt that the Home Office has abandoned its target of processing most asylum claims within six months.
Image credit: UK GovernmentA Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian: "We are committed to ensuring that asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delay, to ensure that individuals who need protection are granted asylum as soon as possible and can start to integrate and rebuild their lives, including those granted at appeal.
"We have moved away from the six-month service standard to concentrate on cases with acute vulnerability and those in receipt of the greatest level of support, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).
"Additionally, we will prioritise cases where an individual has already received a decision but a reconsideration is required. We are engaging stakeholders to help inform how we will prioritise decision-making in the future, which will result in a new service standard that will seek to address the concerns that have been raised with the current arrangements."
According to the Guardian, the Home Office introduced its six-month service standard in 2014.
In a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this year in March, immigration minister Caroline Nokes announced the intention to move away from the six-month service standard.
Nokes wrote in the letter to Yvette Cooper MP: "I am writing to inform you that UKVI plans to consult on and implement new service standards for asylum caseworking. This change means we will be moving away from the six-month service standard for straightforward cases and will no longer be categorising cases as 'straightforward' or 'non-straightforward'.
"The current published service standard, which was introduced in 2014, states that 98% of initial decisions on straightforward asylum claims should be made within six months from the date of claim. This allowed for more strategic management of the casework process and provided a clearer level of customer service expectation. However, it has become clear that the current standard no longer best serves those that use our services and a number of stakeholders, including your Committee, have been concerned that not all cases are captured by it. Having reviewed this, I share some of those concerns and, in particular, the fact that the current service standard does not always allow us to prioritise applications from the most vulnerable people in the system if their claim is 'non-straightforward'.
"For these reasons, the Home Secretary and I have agreed to change how Asylum Operations prioritise their workload. This means, in the short term, Asylum Operations will reprioritise cases by focusing on claims raised late in detention and/or with the potential to frustrate removal, cases with acute vulnerability and those in receipt of the greatest level of support, including Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC). Additionally, we will prioritise cases where an individual has already received a decision, but a reconsideration is required.
"The intention is for this approach to bring balance back to the asylum system while we take steps to increase the capacity of the asylum decision making system and focus on process improvements to deliver better quality decisions more efficiently. I will be closely monitoring the performance of the asylum system during this period and have been clear with officials that we need to improve current performance levels."