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Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration examines Home Office's handling of complaints


David Bolt's latest report identifies a number of performance issues with complaints handling

Date of Publication:
09 July 2020

Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration examines Home Office's handling of complaints

09 July 2020

David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, yesterday published his latest inspection report, though it was authored over a year ago.

The 63-page report examines the Home Office's handling of complaints and you can read it here.

The Independent Chief Inspector explains: "In 2015, I looked at the [Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System] BICS complaints handling system as a whole. I made eight recommendations for improvements and, in 2017, revisited these to see what progress had been made. This latest inspection looked at them again, some two years on, and also at correspondence from the Home Office in response to letters from Members of Parliament on behalf of their constituents, which had featured in the original inspection."

While David Bolt notes that it is over a year since the report was sent to the Home Secretary, he says the issues raised by the inspection remain current and have taken on more significance since the publication of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review by Wendy Williams.

Overall, the Independent Chief Inspector identified a number of performance issues with complaints handling across the BICS, chiefly its "routine failure" to meet the published Customer Service Standard and the quality checking of its responses.

The report states: "This inspection has identified a number of important 'housekeeping' issues for each area. These include reviewing and updating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and using the Complaints Management System (CMS) to ensure there is a full, accurate and retrievable record of each complaint, how it has been handled, and the response.

"However, above all, each area needs to improve the timeliness and quality of its responses, since these are what matter most to its 'customers'. The BICS complaint handling teams have their own detailed processes, but they all share the same Customer Service Standard, which reflects the Cabinet Office expectation that all government departments should provide a substantive response to complaints within 20-working days of receipt. The BICS target is for 95% of all complaints to receive a response within this timeframe, but it seems to be doing little to ensure that this is achieved.

"During the 18 months from 2017 Q2 to 2018 Q3, CCT and DS CSU failed to meet the service standard for both service and minor misconduct complaints in most quarters. Meanwhile, at the time of this inspection, BFCT had never met it, nor did it have any plan or intention to do so, believing that the service standard was unachievable for Border Force, and was accepted as such."

David Bolt makes four recommendations in the report, of which the Home Office accepted three and partially accepted one.

The Home Office's response to David Bolt's report can be read online here.

It states: "We are pleased the report notes and identifies examples of where things have improved since the 2015 inspection and the 2017 re-inspection. For example, improvements in performance in responses signed by ministers (or by a BICS Director General) in the second half of 2018-19 and better use of the Complaints Management System (CMS).

"We acknowledge there is a need to drive consistency in quality and performance across the system, and there should not be a trade-off between the two. Complaints handling across the system would benefit from a more joined up focus and to address this we have established a BICS Complaints Steering Group to share good practice and learning to drive improvement."