Download this briefing

Join the campaign for a fairer Britain

1. The Home Office’s Comprehensive Improvement Plan (September 2020), published in response to the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, sets out the ambition of building a ‘fairer, more compassionate Home Office’, that puts people first and sees the ‘face behind the case.’ Do you think the Home Office has made progress towards this ambition?

In its response to the WLLR, the Home Office committed to building a fairer, more compassionate department that “sees the face behind the case.” However, JCWI remains concerned that the department in fact appears to have moved in the opposite direction, demonstrating increased hostility to scrutiny and increasingly dangerous and inhumane decision-making that flies in the face of the entire spirit of the recommendations of the WLLR.

"The sincerity of the Home Office’s apology for the harm caused by the Windrush scandal will be determined by how far the Home Office demonstrates a commitment to learn from its mistakes by making fundamental changes to its culture and way of working, that are both systemic and sustainable." It is our view that, to date, little meaningful progress has been made towards changing the fundamental culture and the way of working at the Home Office and many victims of the scandal are therefore still waiting, not only for compensation and redress, but also for a meaningful apology.

It is JCWI’s assessment that, despite formally accepting all the recommendations put forward by Wendy Williams, the actions of the Home Office since then have done nothing to build a ‘fairer, more compassionate’ department that ‘sees the face behind the case’ and instead represent a continuation of the defensive and opaque culture that led to the Windrush scandal in the first place. In particular, the Home Office has failed to undertake adequate monitoring and evaluation of new policies and legislation and has shown a disregard for its obligations under relevant equality law.

In this briefing we highlight key recommendations made in the WLLR and accepted by the Home Office and measure the Home Office’s progress against them over the past 14 months.

2. Based on your experience, how well is the Home Office doing in terms of each of the below:

i. Righting the wrongs and learning from the past?

  • Continue the Windrush Scheme and outreach (recommendation 4)

The Windrush Compensation Scheme (WCS) was launched in April 2019 with the aim of compensating people affected by the Windrush scandal. The scheme has been beset from the beginning by delays, low compensation offers and a lack of trust among affected communities in the department’s ability to effectively manage the scheme.

Concerns about the inefficient operation of the scheme were borne out by the National Audit Office (NAO), which found in May 2021 that it takes an average of 154 staff hours to process a case to payment, and warned that the scheme was “not meeting its objective of compensating claimants quickly.” The Home Office has since then ignored calls from victims, opposition parties and a petition signed by over 110,000 people calling for the scheme to be overseen by an independent body, rather than by the same Department that caused the harm suffered.

By 31 September 2021, six months after the scheme had initially been due to close, the department had received only20% of the claims it estimated it would receive and paid out a very small proportion of what it had expected to pay (£31,643,320.45 to 3,022 people compared with between £120 million and £310 million to 15,000 people). Further, only 5% of applications came from overseas residents. Diane Abbott MP has warned that the low number of applications is due to a lack of trust in the Home Office among affected communities.

Low applicant numbers may also be due to a failure to adequately communicate with non-Caribbean nationals potentially affected by the Windrush scandal. To date, the department has made no clear progress in reaching non-Caribbean people affected, despite the Home Office having accepted Recommendation 5, to be more proactive in identifying those affected, within and beyond Caribbean communities.

The Home Office has stated in email communications with affected communities in July 2021 that it wants to prioritise raising awareness of the Windrush Schemes in non-Caribbean countries including India, Pakistan and Nigeria, but has given no clear information on how it intends to do this and has pushed back timeframes further. Concerningly, a Home Office response to an FOI requesting data on overseas applications to the Windrush Scheme by country revealed that out of 11,799 applications made before the end of March 2021, 97% were refused. Further, the vast majority of overseas applicants were from Bangladesh (10887 / 92%), yet only 0.04% of these were granted. In addition, the data reveals worryingly low application numbers from Ghana and Pakistan, only 18 and 52 respectively. It is clear that the Home Office is not only failing to raise awareness of the Windrush Scheme in non-Caribbean countries but refusing them at disproportionate rates.

Perhaps most worryingly, the most senior Black official working for the WCS, Alexandra Ankrah, resigned last year describing the scheme as “systemically racist and unfit for purpose.” She also stated publicly that colleagues had displayed a “complete lack of humanity.” In this context, the failure of the Home Office to publicly respond to Ankrah’s resignation, and its continued insistence on the success of the scheme, are remarkable.

JCWI supports in full the findings and recommendations of Justice’s report published November 2021, which provides a more detailed discussion of the failures of the compensation scheme and proposes suitable reforms.

ii. Demonstrating ‘a more compassionate approach’?

JCWI has not seen any evidence of a more compassionate approach being taken by the Home Office at all. A salient example of this from JCWI’s caseload is in the context of an elderly client with terminal renal cell cancer who has been refused citizenship owing to his criminal history. He came to the UK in 1963 when he was 10 years of age, he considers himself to be a British Citizen. JCWI submitted an urgent application for citizenship under the Windrush Scheme in February 2020. Expedition was sought in light of his illness and prognosis. A decision was not served until January 2021 and only then as a result of pre-action correspondence. Further to a review of the January 2021 decision and further protracted pre-action correspondence, the original decision was withdrawn. He is now left in limbo waiting for a further decision, which the Secretary of State insists should in turn await a decision of the Court of Appeal in a separate case. The Secretary of State’s position is difficult for the vulnerable individual to understand and is likely to ultimately mean that the question of his citizenship remains unresolved by the time of his death.

  • Progress of the ‘compliant environment’ review (recommendation 7)

A year on from the publication of its CIP, the Home Office has so far failed to update stakeholders or the public on the progress of the full review into its Hostile or ‘Compliant’ Environment policies. The continued operation of all of these policies is of great concern, particularly given the clear evidence that these policies cause discrimination against all migrants, as well as against Black and brown British citizens.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found in November 2020 that the Home Office had breached its Public Sector Equality Duties when developing, implementing and monitoring these policies, and agreed with the WLLR conclusion that the experiences of the Windrush generation were “foreseeable and avoidable.” Crucially, the assessment found that when equalities impacts were identified by the Home Office or stakeholders, they were “repeatedly ignored, dismissed, or their severity disregarded.” Despite this, new immigration policies that rely on the continued and indeed expanded use of Hostile Environment status checks for accessing services have been announced, with the review still pending.

During a stakeholder engagement meeting on 12 July 2021, JCWI requested a timescale for publication of the Terms of Reference for the review. We also asked whether the review would take into consideration findings by the High Court and Court of Appeal that Right to Rent checks create racist discrimination in the housing market. No timetable was given for the publication of the Terms of Reference, and officials refused to accept the courts’ findings on racial discrimination. Furthermore, Lindsay Scott, the civil servant who leads on the Home Office’s Right to Work and Right to Rent policies, stated that the policies would not be changed as a result of the review.

We welcome the department’s confirmation by email to the stakeholder group in question that the review is on track for completion this autumn but are disappointed at the Home Office’s continued opacity as to the details of any progress made. Further, it is difficult to ascertain what the impact of this policy review will be, given that as above, officials involved in the review have already stated that policies at the heart of the ‘compliant environment’ will not be subject to change.

  • COVID response

While its review of the ‘compliant environment’ is ongoing, the Home Office has kept in place all of the constituent policies, despite evidence that they and other immigration policies have put people of colour at greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is well evidenced that Black and minority ethnic communities have been at greater risk of serious illness and death from COVID. This is exacerbated by ‘compliant environment’ policies like NHS charges and data-sharing with the Home Office, as well as the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition and inadequate sick pay and support for workers. These harmful policies force people to choose between destitution and protecting their own and public health, deter migrants from accessing healthcare and significantly increase their chances of contracting the virus. JCWI and over 30 other organisations wrote to the Home Secretary on 16 March 2020, and again on 20 January 2021, outlining these concerns, stating that “inaction will worsen a health crisis that requires a truly public health-led response, not a tiered system which serves some and shuts out others.”

JCWI also published research into migrants’ fear of accessing health services during the pandemic. Our research found that migrants from African and Asian countries of origin were significantly more likely than those from Europe or North America to fear accessing healthcare because of being charged or having their data shared with the Home Office. Our research also found that this impact was not limited to migrants without status. In fact, respondents who are entitled to free healthcare and are not vulnerable to removal, including refugees and those with other forms of leave, also stated that they were too afraid to access vital healthcare.

The UK’s COVID strategy relies on everyone being able to access vaccinations and healthcare, and to isolate at home if they are at risk of spreading the virus. This cannot occur while the health system is designed to discourage migrants from interacting with it. Even during a global pandemic, the Home Office has chosen to ignore experts’ warnings and recommendations, putting lives in danger by failing to suspend its damaging ‘compliant environment’ policies.

iii. Demonstrating more ‘inclusive and rigorous policymaking’?

  • Improve Impact Assessments (recommendation 13): New Plan for Immigration

The Home Office delayed publishing its Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) for its New Plan for Immigration and the Nationality and Borders Bill until 16th September 2021, 2 months after the Bill’s first and second readings in Parliament. In so doing, it has failed in its commitment to transparency and openness to scrutiny. Respondents to the consultation on the New Plan for Immigration warned that the proposed reforms would disproportionately affect people with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, and this warning was acknowledged by the Home Office. However, by refusing to publish a full EIA before the consultation, the Home Office denied respondents’ ability to effectively scrutinise the proposals or to hold the department to account. Further, this delay reduced the amount of time available to MPs to work on amendments to the Bill on the basis of the findings in the EIA.

In the absence of statistics from Government, the Refugee Council produced its own estimate of the numbers of people who will be affected. It found that thousands of people could be negatively impacted by the plans every year, including a disproportionate number of women and children. By bringing these policies to a vote in Parliament before publishing an assessment of their equalities impacts, the Home Office is making a mockery of its promise to ‘improve impact assessments.’

It is extremely concerning that given the findings of the EIA, the Home Office has chosen to plough ahead with the NAB Bill, which is currently a significant way through its passage through Parliament. The damning EIA highlights ‘significant scope for indirect discrimination’ against vulnerable groups with all nine protected characteristics and direct discrimination on the basis of age and race (nationality). The Home Office states it will ‘continue to consider ways in which to mitigate adverse impacts on vulnerable people’ but the key measures of the Bill itself is what will make these communities vulnerable. The EIA recognises that the NAB Bill will cause racial discrimination, outlining that increased security and deterrence policies will disproportionately impact people entering the UK via small boats, who are much more likely to come from ‘certain nationalities’ (such as Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria), all countries which have majority black and brown populations.

The assessment states that this racist discrimination will be justified by the aims of the Bill, but then goes on to admit that the evidence does not support this approach. It is remarkable that racist discrimination is justified on the basis of aims that, the evidence suggests, will not be achieved. In fact, the evidence suggests that the opposite of the aims will in fact be achieved, as acknowledged in the EIA where it says, ‘There is a risk that increased security and deterrence could encourage these cohorts to attempt riskier means of entering the UK. However, deploying these measures does advance the legitimate aim of encouraging asylum seekers to claim in the first safe country they reach and not undertaking dangerous journeys facilitated by smugglers to get to the UK, though evidence supporting the effectiveness of this approach is limited.’

The evidence that closing off smuggling routes without offering alternative options drives people to take more dangerous journeys is well documented and well-known to the Home Office. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on which Priti Patel sat at the time, is just one of many bodies which has published this conclusion. Even more concerningly, the Home Office is admitting that there is ‘limited evidence’ supporting the effectiveness of its approach. The Government is choosing to act in opposition to the evidence in order to pursue ideologically driven policies which will devastate the lives of some of the most vulnerable. In doing so, it is failing in its commitment to improving impact assessments as per recommendation 13.

  • Improve Impact Assessments & Better understand the Public Sector Equality Duty (recommendations 12 & 13): Monitoring the equalities impacts of the EUSS

There is a large body of evidence showing that EEA+ citizens from marginalised groups face disproportionate barriers to gaining status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) including from the Migration Observatory, Migrant Voice, CORAM, JCWI and the 3 million and New Europeans. However, the Home Office has failed to adequately monitor protected characteristics of applicants to the EUSS, despite multiple calls to do so from JCWI and others. No comparable scheme has ever succeeded in reaching 100% of its intended audience, thus if even 1% of the millions of EEA+ citizens resident in the UK missed the deadline that’s tens of thousands of people who were forced out of status and into the Hostile Environment overnight. Documents leaked ten days before the June 30th deadline suggested that 130,000 benefit-claimants alone had not yet applied to the EUSS. Understanding who has successfully applied and who is yet to be reached to submit a late application is vital to ensuring the least possible hardship for affected communities.

In September 2020, JCWI launched a legal challenge against the Home Office’s refusal to undertake this monitoring, challenging the failure to monitor protected characteristics as a breach of its duties under the Equality Act 2010. The Department collects age and nationality data for EUSS applicants, but does not monitor applicants’ sex, ethnicity, race or disability. These are all protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, and evidence shows that these factors affect a person’s likelihood of securing their status via the scheme. This information would tell the Home Office which groups are applying, which groups are successful and whether people in certain groups are being left behind. As an indication of how vital this information, the data on the age of applicants has shown that just 2% of all applications to the EUSS were submitted by people over 65, a percentage that is unlikely to reflect the extent of the over-65 eligible population. Due to the Home Office’s failure to properly monitor protected characteristics, it is impossible to know which other vulnerable groups have similarly been left behind. It is also thus impossible to put in safeguarding measures to ensure these communities are reached, and are able to secure their rights.

The Policy Equality Statement (PES) for the EUSS – a document intended to outline the department’s consideration of its Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) – was only released after a lengthy legal process, in direct contravention of the Home Office’s commitments under Recommendation 13 of the WLLR. Despite completing the PES in May 2019, the Home Office ignored calls for its release from Members of Parliament and the ICIBI. It eventually published an amended and updated PES in November 2020, after JCWI lodged a complaint to the ICO who ordered the PES to be released. This was a full 18 months after its completion and 15 months after JCWI first issued a Freedom of Information Request for the information. The PES outlines a range of ways the EUSS may cause discrimination against marginalised groups – including women, children and over 65s, pregnant people, disabled people – but claims that any and all discrimination caused is ‘justified’ and ‘lawful’.

The Home Office fought transparency every step of the way, appealing the ICO’s decision and forcing JCWI and the ICO to face the department in a First-Tier Tribunal hearing. At this hearing the judge dismissed the Home Office’s appeal and ordered it to release the original May 2019 PES. The judge remarked that there was “clear public interest in transparency and accountability in Government and that public interest is particularly strong and obvious … [and] its importance to the huge numbers of individuals directly affected by the EUSS… The longer the delay, the greater the public interest in disclosure became.” The original PES was finally disclosed on 7th September 2021, more than 2 years after we had first requested it, with multiple redactions. This difficult and lengthy process removed the opportunity for meaningful engagement with the public, practitioners, and experts, and greatly increased the prospect of the scheme having discriminatory impacts.

The Home Office fought transparency every step of the way, appealing the ICO’s decision and forcing JCWI and the ICO to face the department in a First-Tier Tribunal hearing. At this hearing the judge dismissed the Home Office’s appeal and ordered it to release the original May 2019 PES. The judge remarked that there was “clear public interest in transparency and accountability in Government and that public interest is particularly strong and obvious … [and] its importance to the huge numbers of individuals directly affected by the EUSS… The longer the delay, the greater the public interest in disclosure became.” The original PES was finally disclosed on 7th September 2021, more than 2 years after we had first requested it, with multiple redactions. This difficult and lengthy process removed the opportunity for meaningful engagement with the public, practitioners, and experts, and greatly increased the prospect of the scheme having discriminatory impacts.

iv. Demonstrating ‘greater openness to scrutiny’?

  • Improve external understanding and engagement (recommendation 8): The New Plan for Immigration and Nationality and Borders Bill

The Government’s new Nationality and Borders Bill represents a major upheaval of the UK’s asylum system. It is essential that such major changes be undertaken in careful consultation with experts, including those with lived experience of the existing asylum system, in line with Recommendation 8 from the WLLR. However, this demonstrably did not occur.

A key part of the Bill – the ‘inadmissibility’ rules for asylum-seekers – was introduced on 1 January 2021 through secondary legislation, months before the Plan was published, the accompanying consultation was undertaken and the Bill was laid before Parliament. To JCWI’s knowledge, there was no consultation or discussion with stakeholders before these very significant changes to the immigration rules were implemented. Likewise, the Plan as a whole was not discussed in any of the Home Office’s stakeholder engagement groups until after it had already been published. In addition, the Bill was initially published with several “placeholder clauses”, leaving blank significant clauses. These clauses were then added to the Bill throughout committee stage, often at the last minute, removing the opportunity for appropriate and much-needed legislative scrutiny or input from expert or impacted groups. This is one of many examples of the Department trying to reduce access to democratic process and accountability.

The consultation process that followed publication of the New Plan for Immigration has been subject to widespread criticism. Stakeholders were given less than six working weeks to respond to the largest changes to the asylum system in two decades. The plans were laid out in a lengthy document that was described by a group of over 450 academics as “completely unfounded in any body of research evidence.”

Consultation questions were often unclear and presented in such a way as to lead respondents to endorse the Government’s plan. The decision to outsource the consultation to the private consultancy firm Britain Thinks increased apprehension on the part of some respondents. Most concerningly, the consultation was not designed to prioritise the views and experiences of the people whose lives this legislation will most impact: refugees and asylum-seekers. The consultation did not include a single question on respondents’ personal experiences of seeking refuge in the UK. Information about the plan and the consultation was not provided in community languages, and there was no active outreach to seek out respondents with lived experience. Given then short time frame and the format in which it was presented, civil society groups struggled to ensure the voices of affected groups were part of the consultation process at all.

Given the Home Office’s stated commitment to more open decision-making, it is concerning that the responses to the consultation seem to have been given minimal weight. The Nationality and Borders Bill, which brings into legislation the policies laid out in the New Plan for Immigration, was published on 6 July 2021, precisely one month after the consultation closed, and before the submissions had been published or received a response from Government. This accelerated timescale raises questions as to whether the feedback submitted through the consultation could possibly have been adequately reviewed, reflected upon, and represented in the text of the legislation.

The Government’s response was finally made public on 22 July 2021. Around three quarters of the 8,590 respondents opposed many of the policies set out in the New Plan – however, the Government’s response dismissed this strong majority opinion and stated that it would press ahead with its proposed changes as plans, since ‘the pressures of the current system cannot be ignored, requiring urgent and decisive action.’ This approach directly contradicts the Windrush Lessons Learned Review’s warning against viewing policy-making options in a binary of ‘do this or do nothing’.

  • Improve external understanding and engagement (recommendation 8): Responses to parliamentary questions

The Home Office stated in its CIP that it was “taking steps to be more transparent to ensure that the department is as open as possible to all types of scrutiny, both internal and external.”14 This external scrutiny includes parliamentary questions (PQs), which allow Members of Parliament to seek detail from Government on matters of public interest, and place them on the public record.

Throughout Spring 2021, several MPs asked the Home Office PQs about what would happen to EU citizens who missed the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) deadline. Many of the responses to these questions were unclear or evasive, giving lengthy but often irrelevant information on the scheme’s successes. In one typical example, Immigration Minister Kevin Foster responded to a question about the rights of EU citizens who missed the EUSS deadline would be denied the right to rent by saying only that guidance would soon be updated, and that EU citizens with “reasonable grounds” would be able to apply after the deadline. In contrast, other Government departments provided direct answers, explaining clearly that EU citizens who missed the deadline would be chargeable for NHS treatment and would not be eligible for homelessness assistance. When responses to PQs are clear, it improves public trust in the operation of Government. However, the Home Office’s failure to emulate this approach demonstrates a lack of commitment to its service users, who benefit from having clear and accessible information at the earliest possible opportunity.

More recently, MPs have asked the Home Office important PQs related to the wellbeing and safety of asylum seekers in the UK. Similarly to the EUSS PQs, responses provided were often ambiguous and failed to provide actual answers to the question asked. For example, when asked what proportion of people resettled under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) had been provided with permanent housing, Minister for Afghan Resettlement Victoria Atkins provided an evasive response focusing on the Home Office’s work with local authorities to secure accommodation, failing to provide any number or estimate of how many people have secured housing. Similarly, when asked how many people living in asylum accommodation or on asylum support have died since April 2016, Minister Tom Pursglove gave an evasive and entirely unsubstantiated response that ‘deaths in asylum support do happen’ but ‘do not exceed that of the general UK population’. Once again, the department does not provide any figure or estimation. Given the severity and implications of this issue, the lack of transparency is particularly worrying.

Even more concerningly, we are concerned that a lack of joined-up, transparent collection of data is resulting in FOIs receiving responses that are misleading and misrepresent the facts available to the Home Office. In a recent response to a PQ on the nationality breakdown of notice of intent figures the Home Office response claimed these nationality figures are not available, yet we have access to them provided in response to a different FOI request given over a month before. The fact that the department is failing to provide accurate information about what data it holds on the public record is highly worrying and flies in the face of its commitment to ‘improving external understanding and engagement.’

Note some examples of Examples of Parliamentary Questions;;;;;;

3. The Windrush Lessons Learned Review said that wider cultural and systemic change was needed to ensure that nothing like the Windrush scandal ever happens again. To what extent do you think the Home Office’s culture has changed?

JCWI remains entirely unconvinced that the Home Office has implemented a programme of wider cultural and systemic change. The Department has become more hostile in its behaviours, attitudes and external communications, and increasingly deployed tactics and policies which breach human rights laws and disregard the safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable. As happened with the Windrush scandal, the Home Office has recently disregarded warnings from experts about the impact of its policies, leading to negative outcomes for its service users.

JCWI is concerned that while there may be a sincere effort being made on some levels to institute the necessary changes, the Ministerial and departmental leadership’s direction makes it impossible to make real progress. For example, the positive step was taken in November 2021 of publishing a new framework for ethical decision-making, in line with the recommendations of the WLLR. The framework essentially appears to empower caseworkers to escalate decisions where they feel there is an ethical issue at stake which they cannot resolve within the rules. This positive change, however, has been completely overshadowed by the fact that civil servants working as border guards apparently feel the need to publicly threaten to sue the government or go on strike in response to measures that require them to put migrants at risk of drowning in the Channel. The life-or-death ethical dilemma that border guards are very clearly facing as regards the actions required of them in the Channel are quite evidently not being heard, therefore, by the departmental leadership, regardless of the existence of any framework that has been made available. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this new ethical decision-making framework serves merely as yet another tick-box exercise.

  • Napier Barracks

On 3 June 2021 the High Court ruled that the Home Office had acted unlawfully by housing asylum-seekers in “inadequate” conditions at a disused army barracks in Kent. An outbreak of COVID-19 that affected large numbers of people was, the court found, “inevitable.” The ruling also found that residents of Napier barracks had been unlawfully detained there.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the barracks in January 2021 saw nearly 200 residents and staff test positive. The Home Office had previously been informed on multiple occasions about the risks of accommodating asylum seekers in these conditions, yet continued to do so. Public Health England warned before the site was opened in September 2020 that it could not be made COVID secure. Over the following months the Home Office received similar warnings from multiple expert groups, including civil society organisations and the Crown Premises Fire Safety Inspectorate, which in November 2020 found that residents would be at risk in the event of a fire. In March 2021 the ICIBI took the highly unusual step of publishing an emergency report on conditions in the barracks. This emergency report raised “serious safeguarding concerns” for vulnerable residents, noted that parts of the site were “decrepit” and “unfit for habitation” and highlighted the particular risk to children who were accommodated on the site pending age assessments. Evidence presented to the court also showed that Ministers had put significant political pressure on Home Office officials to house asylum-seekers at the barracks, despite the well-known safety risks and inadequacies of the site.

Despite these warnings, and the High Court judgement cited above, the Home Office is continuing to house more than 265 people at the barracks, sleeping in dormitories of up to 12, and a Statutory Instrument to keep Napier open until 2025 has now been laid before Parliament. The parallels between this and the Windrush scandal, which was caused in part by the Home Office ignoring warnings from experts in pursuit of ideological goals, cannot be ignored. The dogged refusal to change course over asylum accommodation at Napier does not, in JCWI’s view, reflect a department that has truly sought to learn the lessons of the past.

  • Adults at risk in Immigration Detention

In October 2021, the ICIBI published a damning review on his second inspection into ‘adults at risk in immigration detention’. The report finds that the Home Office disbelieves vulnerable people in detention, based on no evidence, uses this disbelief to justify ‘slow, poor quality’ casework and is ‘unacceptably slow’ to safeguard vulnerable people. In addition, despite the fact seven of the eight recommendations made in ICIBI’s first annual inspection were accepted in full or in part, none of these had been closed by January 2021. These sobering findings reveal that the Home Office is not only disregarding and jeopardising the safety and wellbeing of extremely vulnerable people, but it is doing so while paying lip-service to following expert recommendations to implement crucial changes.

  • Public Communications

Despite promising to improve its engagement with external stakeholders, the Home Office has over the past two years developed an increasingly combative approach to its communications with immigration lawyers and advocates. The department has branded legal advocates as “activist lawyers” who attempt to frustrate the rule of law, rather than as experts bringing legitimate legal challenges or raising concerns about the department’s plans. These statements are not only misleading, but also dangerous. Days after the Home Secretary publicly rebuked “activist lawyers” for frustrating attempts to deport people, a man entered a law firm armed with a knife, attempting a violent racist attack. The lawyers concerned were of the view that this attack had been directly inspired by the Home Secretary’s rhetoric.

There are numerous other examples of the Home Office taking a misleading and defensive tone when challenged, particularly on social media. In August 2021 the Home Office Twitter account shared an article from the Guardian, which detailed claims from numerous charities about the Government’s failure to provide adequate care for child refugees fleeing Afghanistan. The Home Office claimed that the article was “littered with inaccuracies and claims which are untrue” but did not reject any of the specific claims or provide any further detail. The author of the article, Guardian Home Affairs correspondent Mark Townsend, claimed in further tweets that neither he nor any of the people quoted in the article had received a message from a representative of the Home Office before the allegation was made, apart from Priti Patel’s personal advisor who he claims sent him a message minutes before it was sent out which was “intended to bully” him.

This represents a wholly inappropriate use of the Home Office’s public communications accounts. It also, we fear, demonstrates that the “major cultural change” promised by the Home Office is yet to be undertaken. Instead, it seems that the Home Office is continuing to ignore the warnings of whistle-blowers about the failure to protect vulnerable groups.

4. Thinking about the areas in this call for evidence, is there anything else you want to say that hasn’t already been covered?


Based on the above, JCWI is not satisfied that the Home Office is meaningfully addressing the recommendations in the WLLR. It has continued to develop policies, legislation and a departmental culture that fly in the face of the spirit of the review. The department has, since the WLLR and its own CIP were published, consistently failed to listen to stakeholders and affected communities, or offer transparency. Its equalities duties have been disregarded during the policy-making process, and participants in its stakeholder activities have been left feeling that consultations are more tick-box exercises than a concerted effort to hear and act on the views of experts, including experts by experience. Its decision making continues to be of a poor quality and often irrational, even in cases of extreme need. In short, we cannot see any evidence that the Home Office has undertaken the changes necessary to ensure that a scandal like the Windrush scandal can never be repeated.

We urgently need to see change. As the WLLR highlighted, the Windrush scandal was not an isolated incident, but rather the inevitable result of a system in need of repair. This system continues to erode people’s rights and disproportionately impact communities with protected characteristics. If the Home Office is serious about becoming fairer and more compassionate, and earning back the trust of the communities it serves, it must make the changes it committed to in its response to the WLLR a matter of priority.

For more information please contact

Caitlin Boswell, Policy & Advocacy Officer, [email protected]

Download this briefing

Join the campaign for a fairer Britain