Asylum: Interviews

Home Office written question – answered on 18th November 2020.

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to her Department's proof of concept pilot on the outsourcing of asylum interviews, what comparative assessment her Department plans to make of the (a) timeliness and (b) quality of asylum interviews conducted by outsourced staff and by staff of her Department.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to her Department's proof of concept pilot on the outsourcing of asylum interviews, whether asylum claimants interviewed under that proof of concept pilot will be informed that they are being interviewed by a third party rather than an employee of her Department.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Home Office is exploring many options to reduce the number of outstanding asylum claims. Alongside seeking temporary resource from within the Home Office and other government departments, we are also exploring with third-party suppliers, through a proof of concept, to test the viability of whether they can deliver the support required as a temporary, short term measure. Asylum interviews have not been outsourced.

At this stage we are only exploring the potential feasibility of using third party resource to support asylum interviewing, however the name of the third-party supplier who is assisting with the proof of concept is commercially sensitive at this stage.

Any future service, beyond a proof of concept, would be subject to an appropriate commercial process subject to any recommendations being agreed to do so. Any future service would increase interview throughput, help rebalance the system, but also speed up decision making, reduce the number of outstanding cases and support costs.

The Home Office will evaluate the success of the proof of concept pilot by conducting an evaluation once we have completed the proof of concept exercise. The evaluation will include a lessons learnt exercise, inform findings and conclusions on any future service requirement.

To ensure external suppliers are suitably equipped to carry out the role, third-party interviewing officers will complete a bespoke training package, delivered by the qualified asylum operations training team, that has been designed specifically to meet their needs. Anyone who conducts asylum interviews receives thorough training to ensure they are fully equipped for the role. The Home Office is not planning to disclose to a claimant if they have been interviewed by a third party rather than a Home Office employee as we expect the experience to equal the existing high standards already in place.

To guarantee governance and accountability, mechanisms are in place for the oversight of third-party interviews, the department has a quality assurance process which assesses the quality of decisions, interviews and the application of Home Office policy.

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