Home Office agrees deal for asylum appointment-booking tool

Written by Gill Hitchcock on 31 August 2021 in News
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A £1m contract aims to digitise the booking of 25,000 interviews each year between the Home Office and asylum seekers

Credit: David Pearson

The Home Office has signed a £1m deal to take a digital booking tool for asylum appointments from its current beta phase through to full implementation.

The beta version was developed by a project team of civil servants and external contractors as part of a Home Office programme to improve asylum operations and save staff time.

Under the new contract, responsibility for the booking tool will shift to Reading-based firm Mastek. However, the company will need to work with members of the existing project team until 31 August 2022, when its contract ends.

Each year the Home Office schedules more than 25,000 interviews with people seeking asylum in the UK.

For asylum seekers, this is a potentially life-changing event. During the interview, they have an opportunity to provide details of their claim for asylum to a caseworker who will make a decision about their future.

Every one of these interviews involves numerous resources, including staff time. The administrative input to arrange each interview is in itself significant.

But the Home Office says that interviews are often cancelled, moved or have to be rebooked because of applicant no-shows. This process is again time-consuming and must be tracked and managed.

The idea behind the booking tool is that it can be accessed through a user interface, or through other systems, to request the automated booking of slots.

Most users will be Home Office asylum administration staff who work across the UK to manage the scheduling process. In addition, a wider group of caseworkers will be able to use the tool to view and check diaries and accept interviews.

The completed version of the booking tool will be deployed to a Home Office managed AWS-based cloud platform. It could also be integrated with hosted SaaS services running outside of Home Office.

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