Home Office has recruited just 40% of social workers needed for asylum body

The word 'recruit' spelt out
Photo: patpitchaya/Fotolia

By Dan Parton

The Home Office has just 40% of the social workers it needs for its new asylum age assessment body in post, more than a year after starting recruiting.

As of 20 April this year, 16 of the 40 required social workers had started working for the National Age Assessment Board (NAAB), immigration minister Robert Jenrick confirmed last week in answer to a parliamentary question.

Jenrick said that this was “in line with our projections for onboarding,” and that recruitment was ongoing, in response to the question from Labour MP Cat Smith.

However, the Home Office issued adverts to recruit to all 40 posts in spring 2022, following this up with another recruitment round – for 19 roles, at higher salaries – at the end of last year.

BASW opposition to Home Office body

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which has urged social workers not to work for the Home Office agency because of the risk that their practice become politicised, said the “low uptake” showed practitioners shared its concerns.

The NAAB started work in April this year in London and the West Midlands, with its national rollout deferred until all 40 social workers have been recruited.

Age assessments have historically been undertaken by local authority social workers, but the Home Office wants an increasing number to be carried out by the board.

The board will also oversee the introduction of previously prohibited scientific age assessments, through the use of dental x-rays and bone scans.

Age assessment outcomes

The outcome of an age assessment is highly significant with those found to be children remaining in the care system, and claimants assessed as adults receiving much less support as single people within the mainstream asylum system.

The Home Office’s own figures show that most age assessments – 64% of those resolved between April 2022 and March 2023 – found in favour of the claimant.

However, in launching the NAAB, the Home Office focused very strongly on the risks of adults posing as children “as a way of accessing support they are not entitled to”, and of the safeguarding risks of adults being placed in the children’s care system.

Illegal Migration Bill impact

At the same time, its Illegal Migration Bill would make it harder for claimants to be found to be children. It would enable ministers to classify as adults any unaccompanied asylum seeker deemed to have entered the UK illegally who then refused a scientific age check without reasonable grounds.

In March, BASW urged its members and other social workers not to work for the NAAB, in the light of government rhetoric about adult asylum seekers exploiting the system by claiming to be children.

Commenting on the recruitment figures, a BASW spokesperson said: “With such a low uptake it is clear that BASW’s concerns about NAAB are shared by practitioners. Ultimately this is mainly due to previous statements by the home secretary undermining confidence that age assessments could be carried out in a Home Office agency that is free from political interference. Our fear continues to that political priorities will interfere with the work.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are keen to ensure we recruit an excellent workforce and have continued to run recruitment campaigns during 2022 and into this year.

“More social workers will arrive in post later in the year and into 2024.”

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4 Responses to Home Office has recruited just 40% of social workers needed for asylum body

  1. Elizabeth Moorehead June 21, 2023 at 7:24 am #

    Work in this job and debase every social work core value…no thank you. Hope the 16 may influence more compassion but do not hold out much hope.

  2. Khalid Khan June 21, 2023 at 12:54 pm #

    For many reasons, it is important to check the age of people. It is wrong to permit ideology or politics to interfere with what should be an evidence based, scientific enquiry. I do not believe in creating a ‘hostile environment’ for anyone, especially poor, vulnerable, or frightened people. However, kindness and compassion should not make us a ‘soft touch’ either. We need to strike a balance. Honesty should be rewarded. Frsud and dishonesty should not.

    • JOSEPHINE PEPRAH June 22, 2023 at 6:25 pm #

      I strongly agree with you on your comments.

  3. Andrea Nader June 24, 2023 at 5:15 am #

    I think as social workers we are often gatekeepers of finances and we can’t deny we are an arm of the stare in our interventions .The 16 social workers who have taken up this role are free to exercise their values and compassion as much as they possibly can.

    Realistically speaking, there has to be some limits on resources,awful as that is .The high level support UAS receive is needed for vulnerable minors, but can only justify itself by having limits of who can qualify,as they are given education etc.

    Personally I think we need to totally overhaul the asylum process and make more work visas available,as many migrants are fleeing poverty and just want to survive ,but feel forced to make a claim of asylum to legitimise their right to stay.
    The home office then often delays or denies their case and they end up appealing for years and only being able to do work under the table or cash in hand .
    This affects their housing choices , stability both financial and also mental health.I’m thinking of a few I know personally who have been in this position for many years ,even decades in one case.
    Social workers do have a role to help the state in the asylum process, but we can also exercise our values if we are in that position.
    It’s not easy to find a solution to this even if we were to have a socialist government.However I hope BASW and SWE agitate at a high level to decry policies such as asylum ships or deportation to Rwanda and such extreme borderline fascist responses.