“It gives me great pleasure to present my sixth and final annual report as the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. It brings to a close my tenure which has seen me deliver over 70 inspection reports, 18 in the past year alone, in which I have made over 500 recommendations for improvement.
Whilst there has been measurable progress in some areas of immigration and border control, much remains to be done to provide the public and Parliament with assurance that the Home Office’s operations in this area are as effective as possible. Despite the abolition of the UK Border Agency and the functions being brought back under direct Ministerial control in the Home Office, many challenges persist and impact on public confidence.”
I still find too much evidence that the Home Office does not get the basics right. This includes the quality and consistency of decision making but also having caseworkers with the right skills, aligning resources to the right priorities and having high quality management information that provides a sound basis on which to make decisions on future strategy and resourcing.
There are continuing challenges in asylum. I have been able to evidence some improvements in the Home Office’s handling of asylum cases. However, the Home Office needs to ensure that it makes good quality decisions in a timely manner, treats all these vulnerable applicants with dignity and respect, and uses public money wisely.
Whilst there is a much improved picture of consistency of passport checks at ports I am concerned that this has sometimes been at the expense of appropriate levels of customs activity at the border. Both activities are vital in securing the border and in preventing and detecting those who smuggle goods and people in to the UK.
Within enforcement activity, whilst I understand the difficulties involved in identifying and obtaining temporary travel documentation for individuals, there needs to be more effective identification and removal of those who have no right to remain in the UK.
Finally, there is an ongoing need for the Home Office to maintain management grip of the quality, consistency and fairness of its work. I have repeatedly had to report on the lack of quality assurance by managers across the board and I have identified a number of backlogs of work that senior officials had not been aware of. Going forward, there needs to be improved strategic cohesion between the directorates within the Home Office in delivering a seamless immigration function, coupled with better management oversight and assurance processes to provide Ministers with confidence that policy is being delivered effectively and that guidance is being followed by staff.
The inspectorate that I have created is, as far as I can gather, the only one of its kind in the world. It has been a privilege to work with all my staff over my six and a half years in post.
I believe that independent inspection has been and will continue to be an important catalyst for improvement and I am immensely proud of the inspectorate and of what it has achieved.