Home Office team is hard working and dedicated, but understaffed and undertrained
Report on electronic monitoring of foreign national offenders published by Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration
11 July 2022
The latest report released by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) inspects the Home Office's use of electronic monitoring (EM) to track foreign national offenders (FNOs).
The 43-page report is here.
As of 18 March 2022, a total of 1,732 FNOs in the UK were on immigration bail and subject to EM. Of those, 1,622 were being actively monitored.
Individuals from 100 different nationalities were subject to EM as of 18 March 2022. Albanian nationals represented the largest proportion, with 28.1% of the total. Jamaicans were next with 6.4%, the only other nationality above 5%.
The ICIBI report notes that the main government contractor in relation to electronic monitoring is Capita Electronic Monitoring Services (EMS), while the physical equipment is provided by G4S.
Since January 2021, the Home Office has transitioned from radio frequency-based EM devices to global positioning system (GPS) devices. The devices are secured around the ankle and use GPS tracking to record a person's location at all times.
Overall, the ICIBI's inspection report finds that the Home Office's team (known as the 'hub') working on electronic monitoring is hard working and dedicated, but understaffed and undertrained.
The report states: "At the end of March 2022, there were 22.02 (FTE) staff in post, with a further 10 staff due to start in April and May 2022 to bring the team up to a full complement of 40.6 (FTE) staff. This was the projected staff requirement that was due to be in place for November 2021. Inspectors were informed the significant shortfall in staff was due to the ministerial decision to introduce the GPS EM of FNOs 9 months earlier than originally planned, difficulties in recruiting staff, and an underestimation of the volume of work involved in responding to legal representations and challenges. Therefore, the context in which this inspection took place was one of extremely stretched staff, particularly at Administrative Officer (AO) grade, unable to deliver a full service."
Legal challenges pose a particular challenge for the understaffed team.
"The main limiting factor affecting Hub staff performance was the level of staff resource available to deal with the volume of case work. Managers had ensured that the tagging of individuals on release was prioritised in line with the Secretary of State's duty and that legal representations and challenges, pre-application protocol letters (PAPS) and judicial reviews (JRs) were responded to within specified timescales. However, this resulted in a backlog in other areas of case work," the ICIBI added.
According to the report, managers acknowledged that "staff have received little to no formal training". This left staff feeling ill-equipped to carry out certain activities, such as responding effectively to legal representations and challenges.
Stakeholder working with FNOs also raised a number of concerns with ICIBI inspectors over the use of electronic monitoring. Clients reported feelings of anxiety and stigma when wearing the bulky EM devices, and were concerned about how they would be perceived in society. This was said to be especially pertinent for those with a history of trauma.
Clients also reported instances of devices being too tight and causing physical discomfort, and of Capita EMS not being responsive in coming to loosen the strap of their devices.
The ICIBI makes five recommendations in the report. As noted in the Home Office's brief response to the report, all of the recommendations were accepted.