Skip to main content

Today, IPPR has launched its briefing paper, Understanding the Rise in Channel Crossings. This paper outlines the reasons for the increase in people crossing the Channel by small boats in recent years to help form a firmer basis for a humane and effective policy response. IPPR’s research has found that:

In the last five years, the number of people crossing the English Channel in small boats has risen sharply. The vast majority of those arriving claim asylum when they get to the UK.

These Channel crossings pose serious risks to the safety of those making the journey, and it can be deadly.

The UK government has responded to the rise in Channel crossings with a series of highly controversial and contested policy announcements.  In this briefing paper, IPPR aims to explore the reasons for the increase in small boat arrivals to help form a firmer basis for a humane and effective policy response.

This briefing draws on interviews with key experts and stakeholders – including those with lived experience of crossing the Channel in small boats – as well as analysis of Home Office data. It sets out some of the potential factors explaining the recent rise, gives an overview of the government’s approach up till now and assesses its potential implications. It also sets out some potential ways forward, which IPPR intends to explore and assess in more detail in its final report for this project.

In a new report released today IPPR sets out a blueprint for preventing a repeat of the Windrush scandal and ending the hostile environment.

According to the report ‘Beyond the Hostile Environment’ The Home Office is in a state of policy paralysis after years of overseeing the deeply flawed hostile environment policy, according to a major new report from the Institute for
Public Policy Research (IPPR). Extensive “root and branch” reform is now needed to move on from the policy and rehabilitate the department, according to the think tank.

In a comprehensive analysis of the hostile environment published in September, IPPR found the policy had forced people into destitution, fostered racism and discrimination, and was a driving factor in the emergence of the Windrush scandal. The policy also failed in its own terms, with no discernible impact on encouraging individuals without immigration status to voluntarily leave the UK. While calls for reform have been made across the political spectrum – most prominently by Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned review – this report is the first to set out a blueprint for a new institutional and policy approach to ending the hostile environment for good.


To transform the government’s approach to immigration enforcement, the report calls for the repeal of many of the legislative building blocks behind the hostile environment – including key parts of the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016. At its heart, the hostile environment is underpinned by the checks, charges and datasharing measures carried out by employers, landlords, and frontline workers. IPPR found these provisions had effectively outsourced immigration enforcement – exposing migrants to potential racial discrimination and often mistakenly impacting people with legal immigration status. The policy was also found to have deterred some from seeking vital police or
medical assistance when needed. In the midst of a pandemic, this is particularly troubling, the report notes.

The think tank calls for the legislation to be reformed or replaced by provisions that shift the legal responsibility for immigration checks back to government, and guarantee safe access to services for all UK residents. The report argues that one practical step to do this would be repealing the ‘right to rent’ provisions that place the burden of checks on landlords.

IPPR also calls for the government to immediately introduce a ‘firewall’ between public services and immigration enforcement, so that individuals without immigration status can safely seek urgent medical, social and law enforcement help without fear of their details being shared with the Home Office.


The report calls for considerable institutional and cultural reform at the Home Office to instil three core principles into the department: making decisions scrupulously based on evidence; rooting out racism and discrimination; and being subject to scrutiny from those with direct experience of the immigration system. Building on the recommendations of the Windrush Lessons Learned review and the Home Office comprehensive improvement plan, IPPR proposes that the Home Office:

• Strengthens its evidence-based approach by expanding its Analysis and Insight Directorate to regularly assess the impact of all proposed and existing policies on affected groups.
• Tackles discrimination further by regularly assessing policy and operations to identify discriminatory patterns and enact action plans with deadlines for change.
• Creates a new independent body responsible for migrants’ rights to investigate complaints, advocate for, and safeguard the rights of migrants.

The think tank proposes introducing simplified pathways to legal residency for eligible people currently living in the UK without immigration status. The report says the current system is convoluted, expensive and difficult to access; and warns that for people in the most vulnerable circumstances, this leaves them in a state of limbo – in particular need of support, yet unable to access it.

IPPR recommends that the Home Office develop two clear pathways to legal residency to improve the system:

• The long residence route – a simplified application for eligible individuals who have lived in the UK for many years. This would offer indefinite leave to remain, rather than ‘limited leave to remain’ that requires a costly frequent renewal.
• The vulnerable situation route – to ensure indefinite leave to remain for people in vulnerable situations, including victims of trafficking, modern slavery and domestic abuse. The hostile environment has made it harder for people in these situations to access the support they need, according to the report.

Taken together, these proposals aim to address the most damaging impacts of the hostile environment, while also allowing the Home Office to improve its own functioning and reputation, according to the report.
Marley Morris, IPPR Associate Director, said: “As our research and the findings of other reviews have revealed, the immigration enforcement system in the UK is in need of root and branch reform. “Not only has the hostile environment precipitated the Windrush Scandal, but it has also failed to even achieve its own stated aims of encouraging individuals to voluntarily leave. To learn the lessons from the Windrush scandal, the home secretary should take the opportunity to tackle head-on the adverse impacts of the hostile environment and overhaul the Home Office directorate responsible for its enforcement.”

Amreen Qureshi, IPPR Researcher, said: “This reform package would have wide-ranging benefits for migrants, the Home Office and the wider public. Minimising the role of employers, landlords and frontline workers in administering immigration checks and data-sharing would help to both reduce the risks of racial discrimination and relieve the burden of immigration control from ordinary citizens.

“Changes to Home Office policies and culture won’t happen overnight, but that shouldn’t mean the department just sits in policy paralysis. As the UK’s immigration system is reshaped post-Brexit, now is the time to institute sweeping reforms to prevent a repeat of the Windrush scandal.”

UK replacement for European Union support funds should give spending powers to local communities, according to a new report from think tank IPPR.

European structural funding – currently worth around £1.2 billion a year to the UK – is due to be replaced by a ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ after the UK leaves the EU. But 30 days before the Brexit deadline, the Government is yet to set out how the new fund will work.

Today’s IPPR report ‘Regional funding after Brexit – opportunities for the UK’s shared prosperity Fund’ argues that powers over the funding should be devolved to combined authorities and that residents should have a direct say in how the funds are used. The UK is highly centralised and its economy is geographically imbalanced. Residents’ panels – made up of a representative sample of the population – could better inform regional spending decisions and give more control to local people, IPPR says.

The report says that giving local government and communities more powers over the use of regional funds will strengthen local democracy, reduce bureaucracy and improve spending decisions.

It proposes drawing on recently-developed ways to engage with communities. These include Poverty Truth Commissions, which bring together local decision makers and people with direct experience of poverty, and citizens’ juries, which allow communities to deliberate and decide on local issues.

The report also argues that the basis on which EU funding is distributed between different regions of the UK should be rethought. Under the current system, funding is targeted on regions with the lowest GDP per head. But IPPR says a more holistic approach is needed.

It recommends that:

  • Places with higher levels of poverty and lower incomes, included in a “dashboard” of measures of local need, should receive more funding than under the current system. Under new measures regions such as the West Midlands and parts of Yorkshire might receive more.
  • Neighbourhoods and local communities should be allocated at least 20 per cent of the funds to spend on their own priorities, or on developing social infrastructure – such as building community centres and creating green spaces.
  • Combined authorities should be encouraged to experiment with new approaches to investing the funds, such as community-owned businesses and cooperatives.

Read ‘Regional funding after Brexit – opportunities for the UK’s shared prosperity Fund’.


IPPR’s report , “Definancialisation a democratic reformation of finance”, sets out an ambitious agenda for ‘definancialisation’, for rolling back the “socially useless aspects of modern finance” and advancing both its productive potential and the democratic interest over its activities and objectives.


Financialisation – the “increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies” – is arguably the most important structural change in British capitalism in the last 30 years. The rise in the scale, scope and profitability of financial activity relative to the size of the UK’s economy in this period is well-known. For example, the balance sheet of the UK banking sector grew from 40 per cent of GDP in 1960 to 450 per cent in 2010. The consequences of financialisation more broadly, both positive and negative, are also well understood.


According to the report the financial implosion of 2007–08 should have been used as a “provocation to rearrange the place of finance in our economic lives”. Instead, six years on from a financial crash that cost British society the equivalent sum of fighting a major war, too little has changed. Financial crisis has ossified into relative political stasis. Contemporary policy debates are either inadequate or focus on treating the consequences of our financial system rather than changing its underlying structures.


In this report IPPR argue for structural reform to address the deeper institutional arrangements that underpin financialisation. The report says that by doing so, its recommendations should help to build a financial system that operates without public subsidy (the ‘bailouts’), where rent-seeking is limited, and where the relationship between finance and production is substantially tightened.


IPPR set out two principles for this programme of reform:

  • The financial system is a vital utility and the flow of credit to the real economy an essential public good which should be guided by and made accountable to democratic institutions. However, this does not mean it believes rigid, explicit targets should be set. Rather, an overarching framework should be established to ensure that credit is better directed into expanding the productive capacity of the economy.
  • It believes that there are limits to regulation, necessary though it is. This will require building or reforming institutions, both public and private, that are better able to create and sustain equitably shared growth.


These principles lead to three broad objectives:


  1. Targeting credit at the productive economy – principally by giving the Bank of England the mandate to monitor and guide credit creation and flow
  2. Reassert the public interest in the financial system
    1. Establish a Monetary Commission to investigate the UK’s monetary system
    2. Strengthen equity ratio requirements to remove the implicit public subsidy to banks
    3. Create a Financial Product Board to approve new UK-traded financial products
    4. Establish an EU credit-ratings agency funded by the financial transaction tax
  3. Invest the gains of financialisation to help fund public expenditure – by establishing a national wealth fund that is able to accumulate some of the gains of financialisation and support the country’s long-term service and investment needs.

IPPR’s Condition of Britain report explains how we can work together to build a good society in tough times. It sets out an ambitious agenda for social renewal across Britain in several areas, including social exclusion, housing and criminal justice.


The report includes a chapter on how to prevent young people from getting involved in a life of crime and outlines policy recommendations to ensure this. These recommendations include extending the remit of youth offending teams to those aged up to 20, in order to provide locally-led support to help keep young adult offenders out of prison and cut reoffending.


The report states that the responsibility for tackling youth offending lies locally, with youth offending teams (YOTs), which are organised at the level of top-tier local authorities. YOTs were established in 1998, and have since performed well against their three core objectives. The number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time fell by 67 per cent between 2002/03 and 2012/13. IPPR argue that instead of dealing with young adult offenders through the ‘transforming rehabilitation’ contracts, the next government should extend the successful YOT model to offenders aged 18–20. They suggest that managing this more effectively by reducing offending and reoffending, and ultimately bringing down the size of the prison population, would save money and free up capacity in the adult justice system.


Under the plans outlined in the report, the responsibilities of the YJB would be extended to 18–20-year-olds to ensure that local areas are focused on tackling criminality and antisocial behaviour among young people and young adults and new community sentences should also be put in place as an alternative to short prison sentences for young adults. In order to boost the financial incentives for local areas to reduce reoffending and keep young adults out of custody, over time, the budget for youth custody could be devolved to local areas. IPPR say this would give local areas resources to invest in alternatives to custody.


The plans set out in this report would mean local areas would be held responsible to account for their progress in reducing first-time contact with the criminal justice system, keeping all but the most serious young adult offenders out of prison, and attempting bringing down reoffending rates.

IPPR’s ‘Purchasing Power’ report states that living standards of households in the UK have fallen over the last six years due to a combination of exceptionally low increases in wages and larger increases in prices. Substantial rises in the price of essentials, including energy, public transport and childcare, have been a particular problem for some families, with those on the lowest incomes feeling the biggest squeeze.


Consumers are trying to fight back. The internet has facilitated websites that compare prices and the quality of goods and services, making it easier for consumers to make the right decisions.


But some markets are so complex that they require special analysis and regulation. In this paper, IPPR consider four such markets:

  • energy
  • public transport
  • childcare
  • housing.


Making markets more competitive – such as increasing consumer information and banning practices designed to exploit consumers – is the best approach for many consumer markets. But complex markets require more innovative solutions. This is about finding alternative ways of achieving the best deal for consumers.

A new IPPR report, titled “Fair Share” presents the argument for rolling out models of ‘shared capitalism’ that give all workers a claim on the collectively created successes of their workplace.
The UK has one of the worst records in Europe for formally empowering employees in decision-making at work. This represents an economic challenge as much as an ethical concern: stark hierarchies of power, esteem and reward at work underpin the UK’s poor productivity rates and hold back the wider economy, as well as making too many people’s experience of work insecure and lacking in dignity and autonomy.


This report addresses this widespread employee disempowerment, and the UK’s over-reliance on a low productivity, low wage economic model, by exploring how better use can be made of employees’ skills and talents. Institutional reform could help build on the UK economy’s strengths to create more productive, dynamic companies that more equitably distribute reward.

Free movement within the EU has delivered major benefits, according to a new report published by IPPR. The report shows that ending EU free movement would be a hugely retrograde step, but in order to make the benefits of free movement clearer, some modest reforms should be undertaken to address the public perception of unfairness.


The report argues that exports worth £211 billion, which support 4 million British jobs, would be under threat if the UK was to withdraw from the EU because of opposition to free movement.  But IPPR says public support for the continuance of free movement will not be won simply by reiterating statistics about net economic benefits.  Some aspects of the way the system now operates appear unfair to people and advocates of free movement should be willing to accept the need for reform rather than dismissing such concerns, as they often do now.


The report says there are arguments for changing certain rules including:

  • addressing the problem of vulnerable low-skilled employment in the UK
  • increasing conditions on access to social security assistance for mobile EU citizens
  • facilitating the return of individuals who are unable to exercise their free movement rights
  • reform of the rules around transitional controls for future accession states

In advance of the lifting of EU working restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants on 1 January, IPPR’s new report explores the possible effect of this change and outlines recommendations for the government to reduce the strain on public services.


Since it was announced, the upcoming change to the working rights of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants has resulted in great public anxiety surrounding additional pressures on the labour market and public services.


In Transition, released today, points out that there are key differences between the changes that will come on place on 1 January, and those of 2004, when eight states joined the EU and tens of thousands of people migrated to the UK each year. These differences are that Romanians and Bulgarians have been able to move to the UK for work since 2007 and that alongside the UK, other EU member states will be opening their labour markets at the same time.


The report states that the new A2 migration flows are likely to result in an increase in demand housing and public services. Authors Alex Glennie and Jenny Pennington also state that there are specific issues that will need to be tackled and the national and local level such as the exploitation of Romanian and Bulgarian workers and the integration of Roma migrants.


The research outlines a number of recommendation for identifying the local impact of new Romanian and Bulgarian migrants as well as support for managing these changes. Amongst the recommendations is the formation of a cabinet-level committee on the Impact of EU Migration and the re-establishment of a fund to address the local challenges that come from increased migration.


The full report can be read here.