In previous years, the ICI has published an annual Plan that, typically, has identified a certain number of ‘announced’ inspections and made a commitment to completing a further number of ‘unannounced’ inspections. The latter provided a degree of flexibility to deal with topics that might become of interest during the year.
Instead, I have produced a three-year Plan, the aim of which is to provide a better sense of the overall shape and range of the ICIBI’s inspection programme, how the planned inspections fit together thematically, and when particular topics will be examined. It reflects my predecessor’s valedictory observations and my own priorities after almost a year in post, plus the inputs I have had from the Home Office and from a wide spread of stakeholders, for which I am grateful. It is based on certain assumptions, a key one being that the resources available to me remain broadly constant throughout the period.
Flexibility remains important, not least because of the extent and pace of change in this area, and the legislation that created the Inspectorate allows me to deviate from my published Plan where necessary. So, while I expect to complete Year 1 (2016/17) of the Plan largely as it is set out, I intend to revisit Years 2 and 3 at the end of 2016/17 and will adjust them if this is required.
During 2015/16, I revised the ICIBI’s inspection process and shortened significantly the time taken between starting an inspection and delivering the report to the Home Secretary. However, as before, our method is to gather and test a sufficient body of evidence, including through a structured review of case files, to support our findings and recommendations for improvement, and this cannot be rushed.
Under the new process, standard inspections will take 20 weeks, although some inspections will be shorter. The Home Secretary has committed to lay my inspection reports before Parliament within eight weeks of receiving them. The relevance of this to the Plan is that while the listed inspections may begin and report within a particular business year, publication may carry over into the next business year.
Finally, the Plan includes a new type of inspection. In order to test that improvements the Home Office has undertaken to make have indeed been made, with effect from 2016/17 I intend each year to carry out a number of re-inspections of accepted recommendations from previous reports. This will also enable me to gauge whether our inspections are having the necessary impact and will help to improve the ICIBI’s own efficiency and effectiveness.
Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.