Ombudsman criticises poor Home Office and immigration service

10 Nov 15

Too many people’s lives have been put on hold due to delays and poor decisions made by the Home Office in dealing with immigration cases, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said today.

Mellor said she had seen far too many cases where people had been separated from their loved ones, unable to work, and where their children had been denied access to education.

In a report looking at complaints about UK government departments and agencies in 2014/15, the PHSO said that, of the 158 complaints about the Home Office and its immigration agencies, more than two-thirds had been upheld.

The top reason for complaints was delays in border and immigration cases, while poor decision-making was also highlighted.

Across the ‘big four’ departments that generate most complaints to the ombudsman – the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and the Ministry of Justice – most cases were due to individual’s not receiving a proper apology when something had gone wrong or poor decision making.

However, the PHSO said both DWP and the HMRC stand out as organisations with effective second tier complaint systems in place, which contributed to low uphold rates of 22% and 10% respectively. They also demonstrated a desire to learn from complaints and improve their services.

Mellor said millions of people receive great public services every day, but when things go wrong it’s important that complaints are handled effectively. In total, just over one-fifth of PHSO investigations were about UK government departments, their agencies and other UK public organisations, compared to 79%, or 3,274, about the NHS in England.

“People complain about poor public services because they want things put right and because they don’t want the same thing happening to someone else,” she said.

“It is the responsibility of every board of every UK government department and agency to recognise the profound impact poor services can have on people's lives and make sure they learn from complaints to improve services for all.”

Responding to the report, a Home Office spokesman stated: “We take complaints about our service very seriously and will work closely with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to address the concerns raised in this report.”

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