Bishop of Southwark asks Government about handling of Commonwealth citizens long term in the UK without documentation

On 24th June the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark received a written answer to two questions to  Government  on the handling of cases of Commonwealth citizens who have resided a long time in the UK but without documentation .

Lord Bishop of Southwark:

(i) HL5624 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) gaps in national insurance records where the fault does not lie with the individual, and (2) whether Home Office caseworkers should be able to use discretion when dealing with Commonwealth Citizens, including those with right of abode, who have resided for a long time in the UK, but who do not have correct documentation.

 (ii) HL5623 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what advice and training they have given to Home Office caseworkers about (1) the right of abode in the UK, and (2) the level of discretion that caseworkers can use when dealing with Commonwealth Citizens who have resided for a long time in the UK, but who do not have correct documentation.

Baroness Williams of Trafford: Caseworkers considering right of abode applications are experienced and suitably trained.

In February 2020, as part of the reinspection report into failed right of abode applications, the Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) reviewed current training packs and materials used to train Right of Abode (RoA) caseworkers. The report can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/865201/ICIBI_Failed_RIght_of_Abode_Web_version.pdf

Paragraph 3.20 on page 7 of the report in particular states “According to the evidence provided for this reinspection, the numbers of RoA applications received each year are small, around 1,200; the trend is downwards; the refusal rate is low, 10 to 12% in the last two business years; guidance and SOPs are up-to-date; and, caseworkers are experienced and appear genuinely committed to providing good customer service.”

Caseworkers have discretion when dealing with Commonwealth Citizens who have resided for a long time in the UK. The caseworker guidance can be found on gov.uk: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/807365/windrush-scheme-casework-guidance-v3.0-ext.pdf

Page 11 of the caseworker guidance states “You should recognise that people may not have documents that are over 30 years old and help people to build a picture of their life in the UK, using documentation and evidence provided, or that you can access through systems available to you, including through use of cross-departmental data sharing.”

Furthermore, the guidance is clear on page 13 that caseworkers “must take a rounded view where evidence is not provided that proves matters of fact and decide the case on balance of probability, taking into account the picture of life in the UK, evidence in the round and criminality.”