What is the role of the Parliamentary Ombudsman?
Whilst you may have a basic understanding of the role of the Ombudsman, you may not be aware of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, their jurisdiction and action that can be taken in respect of immigration matters.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman is an independent body that is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The current Parliamentary Ombudsman is Dame Julie Mellor.
The role of the Parliamentary Ombudsman is determined by the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967, which enables investigative action to be taken by or on behalf of bodies within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, which includes the Home Office.
When conducting an investigation, the Ombudsman determines whether maladministration has occurred and whether this has led to an injustice. If there is an injustice that has not been remedied, the Ombudsman will recommend that the public body in question provides the complainant with an appropriate remedy.
These recommendations may include a payment to compensate for any financial loss, inconvenience or worry. The Ombudsman is also able to make recommendations that the body in question reviews its practice to ensure that similar failings do not reoccur.
A recent recommendation made by the Ombudsman has resulted in an apology and a £7,500 compensation pay out to a 17 year old asylum seeker who spent over 10 years in the UK without legal status whilst his application was continually overlooked by officials.
This is of course just one of many hundreds of individuals who are seeking resolution and remedial action as a result of unsatisfactory conduct of the Home Office.
What does the recent report say?
A recent report issued in November 2015 by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has criticised the delays and poor decision-making in the Home Office’s handling of immigration cases. There has been a backlog of up to 18 months in processing numerous cases, despite the Home Office policy requiring decisions to be made within a 6-month time frame.
The full Ombudsman report can be found here:
The Report revealed that more than two thirds of the 158 complaints investigated about the Home Office and its immigration agencies, Border Force, UK Visas and Immigration and Immigration Enforcement, were upheld last year, which was more than double the average for public sector organisations.
An excerpt from the report stated the following:
“Our casework shows clearly that the Home Office failed to address delays and poor decision making in the immigration system last year and did not deal adequately with the impact these failings may have had on individuals and their families. The delays and poor decision making meant that people had to endure prolonged uncertainty, were not able to be with their loved ones, were denied access to education or unable to work, or had to pay unnecessary legal fees and/or application fees. The impact on them was exacerbated by poor complaint handling, which meant that opportunities were lost to put things right and to learn from mistakes. We would expect the Board of the Home Office to use this information as part of their scrutiny of the quality of the department’s performance to ensure that they harness learning from complaints.”
What does this mean for you?
At Bhogal Partners we have noted the increasing number of erroneous and poor decision-making made by the Home Office, particularly over the last year. Whilst we cannot single-handedly compel the Home Office to improve the quality of casework management to avoid delays and oversights, Bhogal Partners is dedicated to ensuring that our clients are supported and that all matters, particularly exceptional circumstances and matters pursuant to children are brought to the forefront of the Home Office’s attention. This is submitted within fresh applications, reconsideration of decisions or at the appeal stage.
In a recent case over which I have conduct, a mother applied for Entry Clearance to the UK as the parent of a child settled within the UK. Due to the circumstances of the child’s situation, care proceedings were issued by the local authority, and therefore the UK Family Courts were also involved and required frequent updates in respect of the immigration matter.
In relation to the determination, the Home Office fell short on numerous grounds, namely failing to understand the law relating to the legal issue of ‘sole responsibility’, failing to consider the material evidence provided by us, the local MP and expert reports in support of the matter, and erring in their understanding of the material facts of the case and the involvement of the Family Courts. We, in conjunction with the Family Courts, requested that the matter be expedited so that the immigration hearing would be heard as a matter of urgency, particularly given that the matter involved the welfare of a young child in the UK. However, again, Home Office delays in responding and processing have caused further detriment.
We are however continuing to pursue the matter to ensure that our client’s best interests are put forward.
As such issues have now been brought to the attention of the Ombudsman and have gained recognition in the media, we consider this report to be of great importance in the future of how immigration matters will be determined.
We therefore encourage our clients to report such matters to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and we support and advise our clients in relation to this process.
Is change on the horizon? At Bhogal Partners we consider that this report may be the long awaited catalyst required to bring about change in the flawed system and ensure justice is sought on behalf of all individuals who have suffered as a result of maladministration of the Home Office.
Bhogal Partners continues to be instructed in relation to all immigration matters. If you require further information relating to any aspect of this article or wish to discuss an existing matter, feel free to contact our offices directly.
Bhogal Partners wishes all our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Sophia Baig BSc (Hons)