Recommendations made by the Chief Inspector of Borders and UK immigration, David Neal, in a report analysing the Home Office’s front end services (FES), have been accepted by the government department. The Chief Inspector’s report revealed a number of issues with Home Office FES and how systems were functioning.
One of the criticisms highlighted in the report was that the digital processes used to apply for a UK visa or citizenship were overly complex and difficult to understand. Meanwhile, the report said that some of the websites of Home Office commercial partners were ‘frustrating to use’.
The report also stated that the ‘We Are Digital’ support service – for those without digital skills – is difficult to access through the GOV.UK website. Furthermore, the appointment booking system was reported to be outdated, while some digital services weren’t made available abroad.
Digital application service well received
However, despite a number of flaws outlined in the report, the Home Office’s ‘Access UK’ digital application service has largely been well received.
Neal said: “While I recognise that the development of digital services provides new ways of working and delivering services which are less paper based, more secure and quicker, this needs to be balanced against the customer experience. This report highlights several concerns that need to be addressed by the Home Office and its commercial partners.”
“Customers have indicated that for some of them the UK visa application process is their first interaction with the British government, and it is important to get this engagement right. Delivering an efficient and effective visa application service is in the interest of all parties,” Neal added.
Make systems better
Neal’s report makes a series of recommendations, one of which urges the Home Office to work with commercial partners and stakeholders to ‘improve the technical competency of systems for accessing and uploading supporting documents’.
In addition, Mr Neal also advised that the guidance to FES on GOV.UK and Access UK should be reviewed and improved, while suggesting there should be better use of data on customer feedback.
Responding to the Chief Inspector’s report, the Home Office said: “We have made significant improvements to our front end services, but we are keen to continue developing and improving our services to ensure they are accessible to customers who need them and are able to adapt to meet customers’ individual needs.”
The majority of Mr Neal’s recommendations have been accepted, according to a report published by UK Authority. However, a suggestion made for a post-implementation review of the FES programme was rejected.
The Home Office said that such a review is no longer needed because it is able to ensure that any gaps in service provision are tackled accordingly.
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