David Bolt says his inspections for 2018-19 hampered by a lack of staff and Home Office focus on Windrush and Brexit
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration finds 2018-19 was "a particularly difficult year" for the Home Office
08 July 2019
David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), released his annual report for 2018-19 on 27 June.
You can download the 51-page report here.
The Independent newspaper reported that the Chief Inspector's "damning" report revealed staff shortages and a lack of interest from politicians are stopping the inspectorate from holding the Home Office to account.
Only seven inspection reports were published in 2018-19, significantly fewer than in 2017-18. David Bolt said that this was in large part due to staff shortages: "For most of the year, the inspectorate operated with well under its complement of 30 staff. For the last few months of 2018-19 only half of the inspector posts were filled."
Bolt added that the protracted process of laying completed inspection reports in Parliament also contributed to the year's lack of published reports.
Overall, the Independent Chief Inspector found that the fall-out from the Windrush scandal and preparations for Brexit meant the Home Office had less time for other business, and this included inspections.
He said: "During 2018-19, I had just one meeting with the Home Secretary and two with the Immigration Minister. While I recognise the considerable pressures on ministers, particularly over this period, this added to my sense that the ICIBI's work had slipped down the agenda."
The Independent Chief Inspector's report includes a summary of each of the year's inspection reports, and he finds: "Overall, they painted a by now familiar picture of a system (or more accurately a set of related but not always connected or coherent functions) that does not have the capacity, and in some instances the capabilities, to do everything required of it all of the time, with the result that some things are not done well or not at all."
The Independent Chief Inspector notes in his report: "It did not help that 2018-19 was a particularly difficult year, with the Home Office's Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS) directorates having to cope additionally with preparations for the UK's exit from the European Union and with the fall-out from the Windrush scandal. But, in reality, sudden spikes in demand have been a common occurrence for BICS for some years (for example, in asylum claims in 2014, clandestine entries in 2015, more recently small boats in the Channel in 2018, and in queues at airport immigration control desks every summer) and serve to highlight how stretched the system is and how the response to the latest priority or crisis is typically at the expense of performance elsewhere.
"In the circumstances, it may seem harsh to continue to criticise the Home Office for its poor record keeping, quality management, and internal and external communications, all of which were evident again in inspections in 2018-19. But, unless these basics are addressed the over-stretched resources will find it hard to be efficient and effective."