Home Office’s shiny immigration system glitches causing delays

Amid reports emerge of technical issues, immigration teams keep 24-year-old legacy system up and running

Technical issues with the Home Office’s new case management system for immigration is causing delays to claims and frustration for staff.

According to iNews, technical issues with the new Atlas case management system have led to “serious delays and errors” some of which were deemed “critical incidents.” Home Office staff have been left “sobbing” and have seen data supposed to be on Atlas “evaporate into thin air,” the news outlet reported.

In response, a Home Office spokesperson failed to deny there were problems with the system.

“Atlas successfully processes approximately 120,000 applications per month, including asylum applications; security checks and production of Biometric Residence Permits. Where IT issues occur in a minority of cases, they are resolved as a priority by dedicated technical support teams.

"We are investing in our digital infrastructure to create a modern asylum case-working system that is subject to continuous improvement and initiatives,” a spokesperson said.

In September last year, The Register revealed the Home Office has failed to meet its own deadline for the retirement of a decades-old immigration database set to be replaced by Atlas.

Plans to end use of the Casework Information Database (CID), which dates from 2000 [PDF] and was written in Visual Basic 6, by September last year were axed with no replacement timetable in place. This week the Home Office failed to say when CID would be retired.

Last year, the official asylum claim backlog reached a record high, as more than 175,000 people were stuck in the application process for refugee status at the end of June 2023, an increase of 44 percent year-on-year.

The National Audit Office, an independent UK spending watchdog, said in June last year that the Home Office expected to decommission its old system by September 2023, “but progress will depend on managing competing demands for design and digital capacity from other Home Office digital programmes, such as the Future Border and Immigration System.”

In a written Parliamentary statement in February, Conservative MP Tom Pursglove, minister legal migration, said: “Increasingly since 2023, applications to remain in the United Kingdom have been processed on the new caseworking system, Atlas.

“It is a complex system that has many integrated services such as security checking, sending notifications to applicants, triggering the production of biometric residence permits cards or creation of digital status. Whilst there have been some issues encountered as Atlas has been developed, no systemic issues have been identified that have caused concerns to be raised with the third-party IT suppliers helping develop and support Atlas. Most technical issues are resolved within days,” he said.

Atlas has been put together by a number of suppliers, including Accenture, Mastek and PA Consulting. Contracts started from 2020, with deals worth a total of around £79.7 million.

A report released last month by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) found poor data as well as technical difficulty hampered immigration claims.

“I described it last year as ‘inexcusably awful’. It remains an accurate description in many areas of Home Office business," David Neal said in his report.

"Without accurate data the Home Office will struggle to prioritise and respond to situations and people will suffer. Steps are being taken to address this at a strategic level, and future inspections will see how effective this is. The transition from the case working system CID to Atlas is often cited as the reason but poor data is everywhere.” ®

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