How AI could transform the Home Office
It’s no secret that the Home Office has very poor organisational skills. Their failure to deal with asylum cases in appropriate time is indicative of this. As of May 2023, it was estimated that over 74,000 asylum cases were still pending. It is estimated that for each case, it takes at least six months for an individual to receive a decision on their initial claims. This backlog has been recognised repeatedly by members of the Home Office and the government. In fact, the clearing of the backlog actually formed a point of its own when our current Prime Minister was campaigning for the role.
How does the Home Office propose they tackle the backlog?
The Home Office solution is pretty simple: hire more caseworkers. It’s genius, really. In 2019-20, it was reported that just over 500 caseworkers were dealing with asylum cases. As of December 2022, it was estimated that over 1,200 caseworkers had been employed for this purpose. The push is, undoubtedly, applaudable. However, as will be discussed further, this number has since decreased.
Despite this, there still remains an issue. To get through the current number of asylum cases in the system, and with the number of caseworkers working for the Home Office at the moment, each case would need to be dealt with within 4 minutes. This is, of course, simply untenable. In fact, its absolutely looney to think that this would be possible.
It is agreed with the Home Office that hiring caseworkers is expensive. Given this, this piece intends to discuss a solution which is glaringly obvious. However, frankly, it’s unsurprising that this hasn’t been suggested by the Home Office itself, for it would be contrary to their anti-asylum seeker policies.
The solution is AI.
What is AI?
What with the fear that robots would take over, Artificial Intelligence felt like a thing of the distant future. However, with the introduction of AI software like ChatGPT, it seems as though AI might just be revolutionary to all sectors. And it is the contention of this piece, that it could be equally as revolutionary to the immigration sector, in that it could assist the Home Office, particularly in ridding itself of its self-inflicted asylum case backlog. There are three ways in which this piece proposes this.
Let’s start with the most obvious, and likely the one which would be the biggest argument against this proposal. The Home Office solution was to hire more caseworkers, but they have seemingly started to stutter with their own plan, what with the number of caseworkers decreasing since December 2022.
In the Home Office’s scenario, the hiring of more caseworkers would mean having to pay for their training, to pay their salary (depending on how long they will be employed) and any added benefits which may be added on (questionable for the Home Office, of course). However, and vital to note here, is that immigration to the UK will always continue. In fact, it is required for its economy. Although the Illegal Migration Bill seeks to reduce ‘illegal’ migration, and asylum cases will likely drop, the need for Home Office processing departments will remain. Hence, the need for caseworkers will always remain. If it is not dealing with asylum cases, it will be dealing with Skilled Worker visas – point is, immigration shall never cease.
In light of this, it is suggested that the Home Office adapt AI. As the concept is very much still in its infancy, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the cost will be to develop a custom software for nationwide Immigration processing. However, it is estimated to cost around ‘a few million USD’. Given that the introduction of the Illegal Migration Bill is due to save an estimated 9 billion GBP a year, it seems as though the Home Office may have some extra money lying around.
Hence, the implementation of AI into the Home Office would not only be cost-effective in the long run, but would also assist in the efficiency of processing claims.
Anyone with clients who have claimed asylum or actually, made any sort of application to the Home Office, will know how frustratingly inaccurate Home Office responses are. The receipt of documents with incorrectly spelt names is an all too common occurrence. What then ensues is repeated communication with Home Office caseworkers to try and resolve the simple issues which should never have occurred in the first place.
However, with the use of AI, this could be avoided.
The only portion of an asylum claim or visa application which would involve human interaction would be either the initial interview and/or the enrolling of biometrics. After this point, the name and information of the individual in question would be inputted correctly, meaning that every other time that that case is referred to in any Home Office capacity, the name and important details will automatically be correct. This would save the Home Office significant costs, time, and energy in having to (irritatingly) correct themselves. In fact, they wouldn’t even have to keep hiring caseworkers to tackle their problems.
This one doesn’t even require an explanation. It’s quite possibly the most obvious one. The fact is that the adoption of AI could make every Home Office process significantly more efficient. Caseworkers would not have to input details each time they deal with an individual’s case. In fact, if the Home Office were to adopt an AI software which is experienced enough in carrying out decisions, it can wholly replace the need for caseworkers at all.
In light of this, it would be fair to say that if the Home Office were to implement such a system now, they could be able to use data to make asylum decisions in lieu of physical caseworkers spending time assessing each one. Of course, it is accepted that this is currently, inherently far-fetched, and that it would take years to ever adopt such a software. Hence, it is unlikely to exist whilst the UK faces its asylum backlog. However, if and when this is done, it could alter the way immigration cases are processed. Given the Illegal Migration Bill, as mentioned previously, there is likely to be more of a focus on various types of visas. Such a system could eradicate the existence of caseworkers, meaning that visas could be granted solely on a data basis, making the immigration process significantly more efficient.
It is true when they say Artificial Intelligence has the capacity to be revolutionary. We have seen with software such as ChatGPT that with a user friendly interface, it can be picked up by almost anyone with limited amount of training. For the Home Office, it can be equally as life changing. As one of the government departments with the worst reputation for efficient processing, the adoption of AI could not only help clear the unfortunate backlog of asylum claims, and assist with the efficient processing of other types of applications in the future, but could also help clear their negative name.