Customer service provision at the Glasgow Public Enquiry Office was good, but there was no management assurance to provide confidence that the decisions being made were reasonable. In addition, the introduction of a change programme for decision-making staff had been poorly implemented and led to deterioration in performance in relation to the same-day service. These were the findings in the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration unannounced inspection of the Service Provided by Glasgow Public Enquiry Office.
The purpose of this inspection was to examine the services provided to applicants by the PEO in Glasgow, to assess whether they were delivered efficiently and effectively, with the customer at the heart of service provision. UKVI offers a premium (same-day) service to applicants in certain immigration categories. The premium service attracts higher application fees than applications submitted by post.
The Chief Inspector was pleased to find that:
• customer feedback between January and September 2013 was consistently positive;
• the online appointment booking system was quick and efficient;
• staff were committed to providing a good service to applicants and performance against the same-day service standard was good up until August 2013.
However, he was concerned to find that:
• the introduction of a new operating model in August 2013 was implemented poorly and resulted in deterioration in the service provided to applicants, who had paid for and expected to receive a same-day service;
• a change in the payment method around the same time as the introduction of the new operating model also exacerbated problems;
• prior to August 2013, if an application did not meet the Immigration Rules staff told applicants to ‘review’ their application and apply by post. Although the application had been considered, the fee was not taken. However, once online payment was introduced, staff were required to process refusals, but had not been fully trained to do so. This led to a backlog of 14 applications some of which were months old;
• there were applications that were decided without caseworking notes explaining the rationale for the decision;
• during this period of significant change, no quality assurance of decisions took place at Glasgow PEO.
The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, John Vine CBE QPM, said:
“I was pleased to find that customer service provision at Glasgow PEO was good, as demonstrated by consistent feedback from customer surveys and my own observations on the day of inspection. Staff were committed and understood the importance of delivering a professional service.
However, as with other recent inspections, I found an absence of management assurance to provide confidence that the decisions being made were reasonable. This is not acceptable.
The introduction of a new working model had been poorly implemented. Staff were adversely affected by this change, either because resources were not aligned correctly to deliver an efficient and effective service or because they had not been fully trained to undertake new responsibilities. This resulted in some applicants waiting many months for a decision, even though it had been decided that their applications would be refused.”
The Chief Inspector made five recommendations for improvement. These included for the Home Office to set minimum acceptable levels of quality assurance checks and ensure that they are conducted across the PEO network, and ensuring that there are adequate notes on the casework database about the rationale for decisions.