The Home Office is one of the most important government departments, employing over 30,000 staff across the UK. Like every government department, it should work for all of us. It should make quick and correct decisions about people’s status, supporting people to get on with their lives here and become active members of their community. And it should be transparent and accountable.

But over the years we’ve seen a culture of hostility, dysfunction and inefficiency set in, including at the very top. Policymaking is centralised and chaotic, driven by political agendas rather than evidence, and decisions are often not open to scrutiny and review. No other developed country gives as much power to ministers to interfere in decision making or to bypass parliament and make immigration law themselves. And no other department is so hostile to criticism or feedback.

Operationally, cuts to funding and a lack of investment in training and support mean that caseworkers are overstretched, and the department struggles to retain staff. Instead of being supported to make quick and fair decisions, they’re under pressure to meet targets and to generate profits from skyrocketing application fees.

It’s time to rebuild the Home Office from the ground up. Only a department that works efficiently, supports and values its staff, embraces transparency and accountability and uses evidence to make policy can deliver an immigration system that migrants and British people alike can trust.

Excerpts leaked from the Wendy Williams led Windrush Lessons Learned Review found the Home Office had been "reckless" and "defensive" in its response to the Windrush scandal and that the department "defends, deflects and dismisses criticism".

Our recommendations

  • Commit to comprehensive reform of the Home Office’s immigration and asylum systems, based on the outcomes of an independent and wide-ranging review
  • Reduce fees to cost level so that the department can cover its costs without pricing people out of status or citizenship
  • Invest in proper training and support for caseworkers so that they can make quick, correct decisions based on the merits of individual applications
  • Ensure policy is properly scrutinised and decision-making is protected from political interference and subject to proper oversight

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