My report on the Home Office’s Network Consolidation Programme and the “onshoring” of visa processing and decision making to the UK was completed in September 2019.
The thrust of my five recommendations was that the Home Office should be more straightforward and more transparent about its plans, processes and performance (including of its outsourced front-end services): in the case of its plans, with its staff and with other stakeholders; in the case of its processes and performance, with visa applicants (its “customers”).
I understand the point the Home Office has made in response to my recommendation to provide more information about the “Streaming Tool”. It is right to be wary of the risk that greater transparency could be exploited by “unscrupulous parties”, and I am certainly not advocating any weakening of checks and controls. But, my question, given that the vast majority of visa applicants are not looking to manipulate the system but simply to understand how to make a successful application, is has it got the balance right.
The more cryptic the Home Office is seen to be about the way visa decisions are made, the more it will fuel concerns about bias and poor practice. The department’s reputation and the staff who work in this area would be better served if its first instinct were to be open and engaging rather than seemingly reluctant to reveal more than it absolutely has to.