The Home Secretary has today laid before Parliament the second annual report of the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, John Vine CBE QPM.
This report documents progress of his first full formal programme of inspection work, covering the period October 2009 to September 2010. During this time, nine inspection reports have been published with a total of 93 recommendations made to the UK Border Agency.
Organisationally, the Chief Inspector has found an openness to his inspections and a willingness from the Agency to improve. He has also been consistently impressed by the candour and commitment of the Agency’s frontline staff to contribute to his work.
However, over the past year the Chief Inspector has also identified four recurring concerns among his findings:
- the need for the Agency to make good quality decisions;
- the need for Agency staff to maintain and have reliable access to accurate case information;
- the need to treat people fairly and consistently; and
- the need to manage change effectively.
As part of his report on Asylum, the Chief Inspector urged the Agency to set realistic performance targets that encouraged good quality decision making. He highlighted concerns about the drive to achieve performance targets which resulted in the creation of a large number of new asylum model cases that had not been concluded. The Chief Inspector exposed information, which stakeholders were previously unaware of, relating to performance measures and highlighted clear concerns about target-setting.
During his Family Removals thematic inspection, the Chief Inspector identified the need to take account of individual families’ circumstances at each stage of the removals process. He highlighted the need for clear and consistent record keeping in such cases and questioned whether the Agency had turned to detention only as a last resort.
One of the Chief Inspector’s principal responsibilities is to consider and make recommendations about consistency of approach and ensuring people are treated fairly and consistently. In his inspection of the UK Visa Section responsible for Pakistan settlement cases, he reported on the poor overall quality of decision making, and a failure to carry out adequate checks before visas were issued or refused. He was also concerned about the inconsistent application of immigration rules and guidance and missed opportunities to learn from allowed appeals.
The Chief Inspector has found examples of poor change management within the Agency which have become a recurring theme throughout his inspections. This was particularly evident in his inspection of the Wales and South West region where he identified shortcomings on management and resourcing, in particular staffing allocated to ports and the consequences both for passengers and potentially for the security of the border. His assessment of the UK Visa Section also identified real problems with the way the hub and spoke model was introduced in Pakistan, leading to a failure to deliver either what the Agency wanted or what service users expected.
John Vine said:
“This has been an exciting year in which the Inspectorate has come of age. It’s the first year in which I have completed a full, formal programme of inspection work. The UK Border Agency has demonstrated a willingness to engage constructively with the Inspectorate which enables me to perform my role effectively.
“I would like to see the Agency develop a “right first time” culture to decision making. Their decisions have a massive impact on people’s lives; we must be confident that they are being made correctly and without delay.
“My inspection reports continue to make recommendations that enable the UK Border Agency to improve the service it provides to the public. As a central part of my continuing programme of inspections, I shall be reviewing the Agency’s progress against my recommendations.
“I have been delighted with the response to my reports I have received from a range of organisations and individuals with an interest in the many facets of the Agency’s work. We have made good progress in the past two years; this will continue.”
Download the full report as a pdf here: