Earlier this month the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, published a new report which is highly critical of complaints handling by the Home Office. The findings echo similar findings by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s report in November 2015. We outline some of the findings of the inspection for you below;
Chief Inspector’s Independent Findings
The report found that the Home Office had clear and simple procedures set up in place for making complaints which are accessible through the Home Office websites, leaflets and in posters and applauded the Home office that this was evidence of good practice.
The report concluded that there were several areas where there was considerable room for improvement and it particularly found:
- That there was inconsistent guidance for the caseworkers and complaint handlers on how to deal with complaints;
- One in five complaint responses was in an inappropriate tone or not in plain English.
- Complainants were misled to believe that individual immigration officials could not be identified when in fact no effort had been made to identify them;
- The Home Office regularly missed its own 20 day time limit for complaint responses.
- Poor record keeping including tracking complaints to ensure that people received a satisfactory and timely response ; and
- Failure to pursue all line of enquiries in respect of complaints of minor misconduct
These findings echo a report issued by the PHSO in November 2015, based on its investigation of 158 complaints from 2014/15, which referred to the Home Office’s poor complaint handling, citing delays, poor decision-making and not doing enough to put things right and learn from mistakes.
The Chief Inspector’s Recommendations and the Home Office Response
The report made eight recommendations for improvement some of which include the following;
- The Home Office should conduct a fundamental review of current guidance in relation to complaints handling and ensure that the guidance is concise, unambiguous and practical;
- There needs to be quality assurance checks in place and sufficient management to ensure that the guidance is being applied as intended.
- Home Office must ensure that the investigation of complaints is thorough and impartial, that responses deal with the substance of the complaint, and that remedies are appropriate.
- Ensure that, where requested, the response to a request for a review of the handling of a complaint notifies the complainant of their options should they remain dissatisfied.
- Review the stated aim to respond to all complaints within 20 working days and either take steps to ensure that it is achieved in 95% of cases, in line with the published service standard, or revise it to provide complainants with a realistic timescale for a response.
The Home Office has responded by stating the following;
We recognise the ongoing need to improve and welcome the challenge and recommendations in this report. We have already made progress in implementing some of the ICI’s recommendations, several of which are being taken forward as part of the pre-existing Correspondence Improvement Programme.
You can read the full recommendation by the Chief Inspector of Borders and the Home Office response here.
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