New report says 'hostile environment’ policy failed to consider implications on Windrush generation
National Audit Office finds Home Office failed to protect rights of Windrush generation
06 December 2018
The National Audit Office (NAO) yesterday released an important report looking at the Home Office's handling of the Windrush scandal.
The 48-page report is here.
The NAO says it produced the report in order to increase transparency about what happened in the Windrush scandal and to establish whether problems with the Home Office's information management and management of immigration casework may have contributed to the situation.
The NAO finds that the Home Office did not deliberately deny the Windrush generation of their legal rights to be in the UK, but it failed to protect their needs when it designed and implemented its immigration policies.
According to the NAO, the 'hostile environment' policy of the Home Office did not sufficiently take account of the potential implications on those who might find it harder to prove their settled status in the UK, such as members of the Windrush generation.
The NAO says: "The policy of successive governments to create a hostile/compliant environment for illegal migrants involved limiting access to benefits and services and tightening enforcement activities. This included a 'devolved approach' placing a duty on landlords and employers and public service providers to carry out checks. This predictably carried a risk of impacting on individuals who were, in fact, entitled to residence, but who did not have the necessary documents.
"The Department had a duty of care to ensure that people's rights and entitlements were recognised and this has been re-emphasised by the Prime Minister. We do not consider that the Department adequately considered that duty in the way that it introduced immigration policy.
"In its implementation of the policy with few checks and balances and targets for enforcement action, we do not consider, once again, that the Department adequately prioritised the protection of those who suffered distress and damage through being wrongly penalised, and to whom they owed a duty of care. Instead it operated a target-driven environment for its enforcement teams. The clarity of briefing to the former Home Secretary on this issue has also been called into question."
Poor use of data within the Home Office was found to have increased the risk of wrongful removals, detentions and sanctions on public services for the Windrush generation.
The NAO also found that the Home Office has not yet established the full extent of the problems affecting people of the Windrush generation.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "The treatment of people who had a legitimate right to remain in the UK, raises grave questions about how the Home Office discharged its duty of care towards people who were made vulnerable because of lack of documentation. It failed to protect their rights to live, work and access services in the UK, and many have suffered distress and material loss as a result. This was both predictable and forewarned. The department is taking steps to put things right for the Caribbean community, but it has shown a surprising lack of urgency to identify other groups that may have been affected."