Home Office delayed free school meals eligibility checks

The Home Office prioritised checks on pupils’ immigration status over helping schools to identify migrant children in need of free school meals, an independent review has found.

A report by David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, into data-sharing between government departments found communications problems between the Department for Education and Home Office led to “delays and uncertainty” in the free school meals eligibility checking process.

The review sheds more light on the involvement of the Department for Education in attempts to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, and comes after campaigners successfully challenged the Department over its divisive collection of pupil nationality and country of birth data by schools.

Bolt’s report reveals that although the Home Office was “ready to invest in making the relationship work” when it was the main beneficiary of data-sharing deals, collaboration between the two departments did not work “as effectively” when it was schools that stood to benefit.

Read the full article in Schools Week.

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