Accident and Emergency and the UK Border are two places where your resources have very little effect on how you are treated. A&E doctors, nurses and unreliable data-driven e-gates at the airport serve everyone with the same passport equally, no matter how much money you have, whether you have settled or pre-settled status, whether you have leave to remain; the same Home Office culture runs across it all.
In our wider work, as medConfidential looks at data across government, we keep finding the institutionally secretive, invasive and nasty Home Office undermining good governance. We have therefore created this page to collate work on various aspects of Home Office data malfeasance.
Whether through its ‘Common Data Platform’, heralded in its 2013 Technology Strategy – though clearly not yet fully delivered according to its strategy for 2024 – the barely constrained Home Office Biometrics programme (HOB) and its 6 year late, so-called ‘biometrics strategy’, or its multifarious “Watchlist”, “Status-checking” and Atlas “Caseworking” systems, the approach of the Home Office and its agencies is to mix data on everyone they deal with.
And, as with its latest expansion of digital identity checks, to bring “in scope” all those who seek employment and to rent a home – namely all British and all Irish citizens, in addition to those from the EU, and from beyond, or who claim sanctuary from harm here.
Will the public see positive change?
The culture is insidious, infecting all it touches. Home Office institutional corruption is creeping across the public services and even into the NHS, via visitor charging rules –the response to recommendation 26 of the Lewisham and Greenwich migrant charging inquiry being just one example of its corrupting influence at work; how often does an NHS Trust refuse to publish a simple public statement of what changed?
medConfidential’s efforts are directed at making the hope (and reality) of systemic reform more plausible, practical and possible – rather than persisting with despair at the status quo. Which is one reason why we recommend every reform “produces a statement that captures in an easy format document as to what has changed… so that members of the public can see quickly those positive changes.”
Things will only improve if an expectation of the truth-telling of medicine and accountability of the NHS is brought to the toxic soup of the Home Office and its agencies. While tragedies happen, the health service must keep track of everyone who dies, and why. And the NHS knows it is imperfect, whether because of the inverse care law, or the fact that in some areas customer satisfaction can be more correlated with race than the quality of care.
As the NHS and wider care system protect the health of the country, so should the Home Office be tasked with protecting the humanity of the country.
- Home Office fails to link to online change of address form, placing burden on lawful residents and costing taxpayers tens of millions:
- Missing GOV.UK web link potentially cost taxpayers £50m
- See also FOIed HO internal communications on this issue, and Annex 5 of our ongoing work on the systems of Universal Credit. (medConfidential’s work on UC introduced the concept of a Department as a ‘monster factory’ – one that can choose to work slowly or at speed, depending on its own interests…)
- Missing GOV.UK web link potentially cost taxpayers £50m
- Settled Status Revisited – Annex 5J, December 2021:
- Bias in Home Office algorithm to detect “sham marriages”:
- Detecting “sham marriages” through data has long been a dream of the Home Office (paragraph 83) – an advocate of that project is now leading on data at DLUHC, formerly MHCLG.
- Department of Health uses Home Office Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE) programme for procurement within the AI Lab ‘skunkworks’ – a civil service project, not an NHS project.
- Home Secretary Priti Patel forced to suspend racist “visa streaming” algorithm, using a secret list of “suspect” nationalities in its automated visa application systems.
- Ministry of Justice / Department for Education “administrative” data projects in fact being steered by the Home Office; using research funding to pursue operational goals.
- Home Office deploys a racist passport photo checker, despite knowing it will not work for people with darker skin.
- Analysis of the Home Office Settled Status programme:
- Home Office Memorandum of Understanding with NHS Digital and its predecessor bodies, NHS IC and HSCIC:
- For years, patients’ details – including their name, address and details of their GP – were passed to the Home Office, on Home Office officials’ assertions that immigration offences had taken place.
- In late 2016, an MoU is signed to “formalise” NHS Digital’s ongoing practice, but this dangerously expands the information given about patients to the Home Office.
- Following public outcry, an independent review, and a Parliamentary inquiry, the Government suspends the MoU in May 2018. The threshold for the NHS to pass on patients’ information is later raised to that of serious crime.
- Though its name and the budget may change, one thing is for certain – the Home Office is spending hundreds of millions on a massive ‘Common Data Platform’:
- 2021: Secretive Home Office unit has hoarded data on millions of people
- 2019: Home Office Is Building A Massive Database Of Migrants
- 2018: Government to ink deal for yet another immigration database, only £347m wasted in last overhaul
- 2017: Just how screwed is IT at the Home Office?
- 2016: Home Office creating mega database by stitching together ALL its Gov records
- The Windrush scandal began to surface in 2017 as stories emerged about hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many from the ‘Windrush’ generation, who had been wrongly detained, deported and denied their legal rights.
- Wendy Williams, who led the Windrush Lessons Learned independent review, speaking at the IfG on institutional ignorance and institutional racism – any meaningful review must adhere to the legal practice of Maxwellisation;
- Home Office officials were “institutionally ignorant” about race issues, and remains largely unreformed. (As do related institutions which demonstrate their embedded prejudice, even in their press releases.)
- Other examples of the Home Office’s deeply flawed and discriminatory immigration system impacting on the entirely innocent: