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Re-inspection of the administrative review process, published in July 2017

The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) report on a re-inspection of the administrative review process, published in July 2017 was published on 13 July 2017.

Pursuant to section 16 of the Immigration Act 2014 the Home Secretary is required to request the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration to inspect the process of Administrative review.

The report should address:

“(a)the effectiveness of administrative review in identifying case working errors;

(b)the effectiveness of administrative review in correcting case working errors;

(c)the independence of persons conducting administrative review (in terms of their separation from the original decision-maker).

The first report was published in May 2016 and was analysed in a previous blog post. The report looked at customer service standards, consistency in approach, learning and cost savings. The report made 14 recommendations. 13 were accepted and 1 partially accepted.

The re-inspection process examined 175 ARs considered between 26 May and 26 December 2016 and between 23 March 2016 and 31 March 2016, interviewed staff and managers at various locations.

As set out at 1.4 of the report: “The sampling of AR applications focused on:
• the quality of decisions
• audit trails of decisions and actions on the electronic record systems
• whether full reconsiderations were being conducted
• whether caseworkers were taking into account all of the applicant’s concerns
• the independence of the AR decision maker from the initial decision maker”.

Recommendation 1 identified the need to make the deadline to seek an administrative review clearer. The report now accepts that, through guidance, the Home Office have made the deadline to apply for an AR clear. Paragraph 3.4 of the report states: “Inspectors found that the most recent AR guidance (updated in April 2016) provided full details to applicants to explain the time limits and set out clearly when an application is deemed to have been received”.

Recommendation 2 of the first report was to “ensure caseworkers take all reasonable steps to check the actual date of receipt of the eligible decision before rejecting applications on the basis that they are out of time”.

The re-inspection identified that “Clarifications in policy and revised training have led to improvements in decisions being correctly made as to the receipt of decision and eligibility to apply for an AR being calculated correctly”.

Recommendation 3 read: “Ensure that CID notes and AR invalidity notices state clearly why an AR application was determined to be invalid.- record keeping the report found”. The re-inspection report concluded that administrative caseworkers understood the importance of making accurate notes on electronic systems. The re-inspection continued: “However, the file sample indicated that in a significant number of cases the notes made by staff validating in-country AR applications were inadequate”. As a result recommendation 3 remains open for the in-country administrative review work.

Recommendation 4 dealt with fee waivers, this was re-inspected and was closed.

Further training and supervision to the same level as those making the original decisions has led to the closure of recommendation 5.

Recommendation 6 suggested that structure, grading and staffing (in terms of knowledge and experience) of the administrative review team in in Manchester should be revisited. The revisit considered this had been addressed and this recommendation was now closed.

Recommendation 7 advised “producing a revised statement about the processes for overseas and ‘at the border’ ARs explaining how independence and separation from the original decision-maker are ensured where there is no “separate, dedicated team of reviewers”.

Following re-inspection, this remains open in relation to overseas administrative reviews but closed in relation to in country administrative reviews. The report concluded: “UKVI needs not only to complete and evaluate the structural changes it committed to making, but also to demonstrate that its document retention, case notes and refusal notices are good enough to enable a “full reconsideration” of the entry clearance applications for which ARs are requested”.

Recommendation 8 sought to “ensure that all AR reviewers address all substantive issues raised by the applicant and that CID (or CRS)17 notes and decision notices accurately reflect this”. This was linked to recommendation 9, which the Home Office partially accepted to, which sought to “clarify guidance regarding the requirement for reviewers to correct all errors contained in the original decision (not just those identified by the applicant in their AR application), including carrying out further checks where they identify these were not done correctly by the caseworker who made the original decision”

The reinspection concluded: “File sampling indicated that in-country AR reviewers were considering all of the issues raised by the AR applicant in all cases. However, because of poor record keeping, inspectors could not establish whether this was the case with all overseas and ‘at the border’ AR reviews. Although all three areas needed to improve their record keeping in respect of the reason(s) for AR decisions and the action(s) taken, inspectors were satisfied that the specific issue covered by Recommendation 8 had been resolved by ‘in country’ and can be considered closed, but it remains open for ‘at the border’ and overseas ARs”.

This continues at 3.67: “Revised guidance had clarified when a full reconsideration was required and when not, and what reviewers were required to do about rectifying any errors they identified. Therefore, Recommendation 9 is closed. However, file sampling identified that full reconsiderations were still not being conducted for all the cases where they should have been, so quality assurance needs to improve to ensure compliance with the guidance”.

Recommendation 10 dealt with processing times. The re-inspection found at paragraph 3.76: “The Home Office did not provide an update by autumn 2016 as promised, and the re-inspection found no evidence of a policy or formal process being in place to prioritise ARs, except where they risked breaching the Customer Service Standard. Therefore, Recommendation 10 remains open”

Recommendation 11 “Put in place formal, robust Quality Assurance procedures for all ARs (including decisions regarding the validity of applications) that takes account of the grade and experience of the reviewer and the complexity of the original decision”.

Recommendation 11 was closed for in country applications but following re-inspection this “remains open for overseas and ‘at the border’ ARs. Both UKVI (in respect of overseas ARs) and Border Force (in respect of ‘at the border’ ARs) need, as a matter of urgency, to document their quality assurances processes and to ensure that the quality assurance checks are completed and recorded formally”.

The re-inspection remind us at paragraph 3.91 that “The original inspection raised concerns at how the outcomes of ARs, quality assurance and litigation were captured and shared, and whether the Home Office was learning from these events in order to achieve continuous improvement”. This led to recommendations 12, 13 and 14. The report noted the need to use quality assurance to improve the quality and consistency of outcomes by using feedback and the need to capture and feedback to the original decision maker. Based on the re-inspection findings, recommendations 12 and 13 remain open for overseas and ‘at the border’ ARs, but can be closed for in-country ARs and recommendation 14 remains open for the Home Office as a whole.

The re-inspection report stresses the need to capture all data in order to see how the system is working. At paragraph 3.108 the re-inspection report states: “The Home Office needs to do more to analyse why these are being conceded or lost, not just for the immediate learning, but to validate the introduction of the AR system”.

It is hoped that continued and much needed improvements to the system will mean that individuals do not need to resort to expensive and unnecessary litigation in order to correct avoidable errors in the administrative review process. Time and money must be invested into quality decision making. There are not only financial costs arising from poor decision making but a wrong decision can have life changing implications for many individuals.

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