The Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), John Vine CBE QPM, has published his report into an unannounced inspection of UKBA operations.
The inspection of the Croydon Public Enquiry Office (PEO) was carried out on 4 February and was the second in a programme of unannounced inspections planned for 2009/2010.
The Croydon PEO is the largest of seven nationwide run by the UKBA. It offers a same-day service for considering applications for permission to extend a stay, or to stay in the UK permanently.
Prior to the inspection, the Independent Chief Inspector’s team conducted a mystery shopping exercise of the PEO’s appointment booking system, making 80 online and telephone enquiries. They found that it was generally easier to obtain appointment information online and, on the whole, the online booking system provided earlier appointment dates than telephone booking.
On the day of the inspection, the team arrived at the PEO without giving any prior warning to the UKBA. Whilst on site, the team observed a number of PEO processes in action including case consideration and biometrics. They also carried out interviews with managers and staff, as well as surveying a number of customers to gather feedback on the appointment process and the services and facilities available on the day.
John Vine said: “I am pleased to present the report of my recent inspection of the Croydon PEO. Unannounced inspections of frontline services are essential to ensure the UKBA is delivering fair, consistent and respectful services.
“I concluded that staff at the Croydon PEO were, on the whole, professional and committed to their work, but were hampered in the level of service they could provide to customers due to IT failures, queues for office equipment and cramped accommodation. It was also disappointing to find that inaccurate information on customer waiting times was found on the UKBA website and in the PEO.
“It is my intention to carry out further unannounced inspections of UKBA operations as the year unfolds.”
The report on the Croydon PEO is the second unannounced inspection to be published by the Independent Chief Inspector, following an inspection of the Liverpool Asylum Screening Unit in 2009.