‘We have to hold to our values’: Home Office perm sec Matthew Rycroft reflects on tough decisions and the need to inspire colleagues in 2022

From supporting fleeing Ukrainians to breaking the business model of people smugglers - the work of the Home Office is never easy, and perm sec Matthew Rycroft takes pleasure in standing with "conscientious, hard-working" colleagues to meet those challenges
Source Alamy

By CSW staff

21 Dec 2022

What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?  

It’s an absolute pleasure to stand alongside colleagues in the Home Office who work tirelessly, day-in-day-out to deliver the best outcomes for the people of this country. They aren’t often recognised for the work they do – in fact, the Home Office rarely gets positive news coverage since so much of what we do is about preventing negative things from happening.  But I know, having met many of them this year, that these are conscientious, hard-working individuals who have the people they serve at the heart of their decision-making.   

Picking just one highlight is difficult but if I had to I would say it would be our work, jointly with DLUHC and others, to help Ukrainians fleeing from Putin’s barbaric war. In a matter of days, we stood up two visa routes to bring these people to the UK and to date we have issued more than 200,000 visas to those seeking security here. 

What was your most difficult decision in 2022?  

Again, there are too many to choose from in the Home Office! Other permanent secretaries will, I’m sure, attest to the fact that it is the nature of the job to tackle a myriad difficult decisions on a daily basis. For me, the hardest decisions have been made so much easier thanks to the support and guidance of my colleagues. We have to hold to our values – both the civil service ones and our departmental Home Office values of collaboration, compassion, courage and respect – particularly as we work our way through the most difficult decisions. 

They aren’t often recognised for the work they do – in fact, the Home Office rarely gets positive news coverage since so much of what we do is about preventing negative things from happening

What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet that challenge as an organisation?  

There are challenges across all three parts of the Home Office’s priorities – migration, crime and homeland security. The toughest challenges of all are likely to be on migration as we seek to break the business model of people smugglers, who risk people’s lives in crossing the Channel in dangerous circumstances. We have made significant investments in our capability this year and have some outstanding teams working on the various aspects of illegal migration. 

And personally, as a leader?  

The biggest challenge for me personally is to find ways to inspire the civil servants in the Home Office to give their best in these circumstances. 

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