Patel promises 'reforms' of Home Office culture amid Windrush scandal

The home secretary has promised "sweeping reforms" to Home Office culture after the Windrush scandal which saw people wrongly deported.

Priti Patel set out the action the UK Home Office is taking in response to the review released earlier this year in the wake of the WIndrush scandal from two years ago, which wrongly denied the citizenship rights of some Commonwealth citizens brought to Britain to address labour shortages in the wake of World War II.

Speaking to MPs, Priti Patel said there would be a "full evaluation" of the hostile environment policy.

She also announced mandatory training for Home Office staff, reconciliation events with the victims of the scandal and diverse shortlists for senior jobs.

“I am driving change to implement the important findings of the Lessons Learned review to make sure nothing like this can happen again,” Patel said on Tuesday.

“The action I have taken will ensure cultural change at the department, leading to more diverse leadership. I want the Windrush generation to have no doubt that I will reform the culture of the department so it better represents all of the communities we serve,” she said.

The Windrush scandal saw people being detained or even removed from the UK despite having lived in the country for years.

The scandal prompted criticism of the government's "hostile environment" measures introduced to tackle illegal immigration such as a 'deport first, appeal later' policy and tougher 'right to work' checks.

A report into the scandal by Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary, accused the Home Office of demonstrating "ignorance and thoughtlessness".

She made 30 recommendations and in June Ms Patel said she accepted the report in full.

As part of the new steps, the Home Office says the greater emphasis will be placed on taking a more “compassionate approach” to individual applications and decision-makers will be empowered to use their own discretion and pragmatism.

The department will also increase engagement with civil society and the public at an early stage to build evidence for policy. A move which the minister said would change the Home Office’s “openness to scrutiny”.

Meanwhile, the department said it is also introducing more diverse shortlists for senior jobs, with specialist mentoring and sponsorship programmes to help develop a wider pool of talent.

Patel said: "There are simply not enough individuals from black, Asian or minority ethnic staff working at the top in senior roles and there are far too many times where I am the only non-white face in the room.

"The injustices of Windrush did not happen because Home Office staff were bad people, but because staff themselves were caught up in a system where they did not feel they had the permission to bring personal judgement to bear," she said.

She also announced that in September 2021, Ms Williams would revisit the Home Office to review its progress.