Home Office staff to undergo training on race in 'sweeping' post-Windrush reforms

Home Office will also review hostile environment policy so “no one with a legal right to be here is wrongly penalised”
Photo: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

All Home Office staff will be made to undergo training on the history of migration and race in the UK as part of “sweeping reforms” to the department’s culture, policies, systems and working practices, Priti Patel has said.

The training is part of a programme of "urgent and extensive work" to make the Home Office "fair, humane, compassionate and outward-looking" in the wake of the Windrush scandal, which also involves a review of the hostile environment policy, the home secretary told the House of Commons yesterday.

Patel and Philip Ryroft, the department’s permanent secretary, are “reviewing every aspect of how the department operates – its leadership, the culture, policies, practices and the way it views and treats all parts of the community it serves”, Patel said.

As well as mandatory training for its civil servants and new recruits, the Home Office will mandate more diverse shortlists for senior jobs and introduce specialist mentoring and sponsorship programmes to “help develop a wider pool of talent and drive cultural change”.

The HR changes come a month after Patel said the Home Office would accept all of the recommendations of a lessons-learned review into the Windrush scandal. 

The review, by former police watchdog Wendy Williams, found the Home Office had displayed “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness” on race throughout the scandal.

The response Patel outlined yesterday is divided into five themes: righting the wrongs and learning from the past, including training; an inclusive workforce; openness to scrutiny; inclusive and robust policymaking; and a more humane approach – people not cases.

It includes an evaluation of what is now called the compliant environment policy – more commonly referred to as the hostile environment policy.

The policy, which encompasses measures such as the Right to Rent scheme and NHS immigration surcharge, is designed to make it difficult for people to live in the UK, work and access public services if they are here illegally, but were wrongly applied to members of the Windrush generation who had a right to live in the UK.

The evaluation will examine compliant environment policy and measures both cumulatively and individually to ensure “no one with a legal right to be here is wrongly penalised”, Patel said.

The Home Office will meanwhile introduce a new process to ensure “all new policies are developed in an inclusive way, factoring cultural and historical context”, Patel said. The process will also include mechanisms to monitor and resolve any concerns.

To improve the department’s openness to scrutiny, Patel said the department would improve the way it gathered evidence for policies and engaged with people who would be affected by them.

She said she would look for evidence in advice to ministers that officials had engaged with community organisations, civil society and the public.

And the department will also overhaul its risk management framework to enable it to identify problems sooner and understand the unintended consequences of policies, she said.

Patel said when Williams conducts her follow-up review in September 2021, “she will find the start of a genuine cultural shift within the department.”

“A Home Office that is working hard to be more diverse, more compassionate and worthy of the trust of the communities it serves.”

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