Amanda Campbell CEO
On the 4th July, 2016 Dame Julie Mellor resigned as the Ombudsman following a damning report by Sir Alex Allan criticising her for not taking swift and appropriate action when informed that her Deputy Ombudsman, Mick Martin had been named in an employment tribunal and found to have conspired with others to cover up a sexual harassment case whilst at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. When these facts were released into the public domain by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Mick Martin resigned before any internal inquiry was carried out.
Losing both the Deputy Ombudsman and Ombudsman under a cloud of collusion brought into sharp focus the leadership qualities required in an Ombudsman, the final arbitrator for disputes with public bodies. Public confidence requires the utmost integrity from such a senior public servant and a commitment to uphold the Nolan Principals of Public Life .
Indeed Sir Alex Allan concluded his report with the following statement regarding a ‘fit and proper person test’.
- In the NHS, staff employed at director level are required to pass a “fit and proper” test before they are appointed. The regulations provide that the individual must be of good character, have the necessary competencies, and not have been responsible for, been privy to, contributed to or facilitated any serious misconduct or mismanagement.The Financial Conduct Authority similarly has a “fit and proper” test for those in the financial sector, and there are examples in other areas too.
- There are of course selection processes in place for assessing both the competence and suitability of candidates for senior appointments in PHSO. But there is no explicit “fit and proper” test. While the nature of PHSO means it would not be appropriate for such requirements to be subject to an external regulator, in the way that the Care Quality Commission regulates NHS bodies, I believe the line manager of senior recruits should formally sign off that they have carried out the necessary checks, and are satisfied that the candidate is “fit and proper”. The PHSO’s values are excellence, leadership, integrity and diversity, and it is important that senior staff are seen to embody those values.
Amanda Campbell was appointed as CEO at the Ombudsman’s office in October 2016 effectively replacing Mick Martin as Deputy Ombudsman. It is not known if she has ever been asked to pass the ‘fit and proper person’ test or certify that she was meeting the Nolan Principals as required by PHSO following Sir Alex Allan’s report.  What is known is that Amanda Campbell came to PHSO from the Home Office where she had worked for the previous 31 years and most recently as Director General of Immigration Enforcement role she took up in February 2014 during the time of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment policy’
As Director General of Immigration Enforcement Amanda Campbell was in a key leadership role during the time that the Windrush generation were being detained and deported, as it turned out illegally. The Joint Committee on Human Rights,chaired by Harriet Harman and the Home Affairs Committee chaired by Yvette Cooper both found that the Home Office had acted illegally by detaining and deporting British Citizens on a ‘deport first, appeal later’ basis and breached their human rights by failing to provide the evidence and support which proved their right to live and work in the UK.
“Policy choices and political decisions in the Home Office led to a hostile culture and callous system so alarm bells didn’t even ring in the department about locking up a grandmother who has lived here for decades, or when longstanding lawful residents lost their NHS treatment and were met with a wall of bureaucracy in response. Oversight in the Home Office that should have caught these problems completely failed.”
A culture change within the Home Office, with “a policy shift towards an increasingly rigid, rules-based culture” led to an environment in which people attempting to sort out their papers were “automatically treated with suspicion and scepticism”, the report says. “They had been made to follow processes that appear designed to set them up to fail, while at the same time vital avenues for support such as legal aid and the right of appeal had been removed.”
They are still struggling with the financial consequences of being told they were neither allowed to work or claim unemployment benefits, leaving them near-destitute for several years. Some Windrush generation people remain homeless, or continue to face large debts as a direct consequence of being wrongly classified as illegal immigrants.
The ‘hostile environment policy’ required the Home Office to meet deportation targets and Amanda Campbell led a department willing to meet those targets by separating mothers from their children, as in this case of Assan.
“Assan says she is stunned by the Home Office’s callousness. On her way to the reporting centre on 3 March 2015, the day she was detained, she had called her Home Office caseworker to say the trip was logistically difficult because she had to pick up her daughter. She says the official encouraged her to attend, promising to review the arrangement. On arrival, Assan was told her deportation order had been certified, so there was no appeal. Court documents record that she began screaming and was restrained, with “officers holding her legs, her arms and her head right back”. The Home Office has not disclosed a “use of force” report, despite this being mandatory.
Handcuffed and with her phone confiscated, Assan was taken to detention. At 3pm, when her daughter’s nursery closed, there was no one to collect her: the Home Office had arranged no care. The toddler was taken into emergency foster care. Court documents describe the child as in “acute distress and confusion”.
Speaking through tears, Assan said: “She’s my first child. It was the first nursery session, the first time we had been separated. I had no clue where she was or who she was with.” In total, mother and daughter were separated for three months. Assan was placed on suicide watch. Her daughter remains traumatised.
In June 2018 the UK Administrative Justice Institute (UKAJI) published a report into the findings of the Joint Committee of Human Rights highlighting the following failure points. ukaji.org/2018/06/29/windrush-detention
The case file analysis identified common features, including evidence that Home Office officials:
- showed a lack of awareness of the rights conferred upon various categories of individuals;
- ignored evidence on file that supported the individual’s account including representations from family members, lawyers and MPs and letters from Government bodies like HMRC;
- placed the entire burden of proof on those investigated even when critical information could have been easily obtained from another department by Home Office officials. Those being investigated were expected to prove their immigration entitlement to a standard even beyond the Home Office’s own guidance and seemingly required them to prove that they should not be detained;
- did not adequately satisfy themselves that they had a power to detain (and deport) individuals even when evidence on the case files strongly suggested that there was no lawful power to detain these individuals;
- made flawed assessments of risk of absconding, resulting in detention powers being used wrongfully; and
- demonstrated a general culture that was hostile—failing to treat individuals as deserving of respect and basic dignity.
Each of these features is examined in detail in the report. The cumulative effect of ignoring evidence and representations, making unduly onerous demands for evidence, making ‘gross errors of judgement’ and showing little or no compassion for individuals ‘led to officials making perverse and arbitrary decisions leading to their detention’.
‘The Home Office’s approach to Windrush cases has been shocking. …If Home Office immigration work regularly results in successive poor decisions and successive gross errors of judgement then this implies a problem with the system itself, and therefore requires more fundamental changes to policy, culture and training.’
Policy, culture and training are led from the top down and were clearly lacking given that at least 5,000 Windrush victims have been identified. Systemic failure on this scale is indeed a scandal which demands media attention and swift action.
Members of PHSOtheFACTS sent comments to UKAJI drawing attention to the fact that many of the systemic issues identified at the Home Office and quite rightly condemned as scandalous were similar in nature to those identified by the Patients Association as operating at PHSO adversely affecting vulnerable NHS and Parliamentary complainants who had no-one else to turn to. These statements are taken directly from the Patients Association reports and mirror those identified at the Home Office.
- It often appeared to fall to patients to identify in what respect the Trust’s actions had failed to comply with best practice or its own procedures, as PHSO were unwilling to act without this justification, but also unable or unwilling to challenge the Trust and identify the nature of the error themselves
- Some patients reported feeling that they were simply disbelieved by PHSO; in other instances, PHSO insisted on having ‘impartial’ evidence,and disregarded family members’ evidence while accepting that of clinicians on this pretext.
- It was strongly evident that PHSO’s processes did not make things easy for patients and families – indeed, they appeared not to have been designed with much thought for what the experience of a complainant would be. The operation of these processes can often compound this problem.
- PHSO staff were reported as asking questions of patients and family members whose answers were to be found in paperwork that already existed; or, at times, questions that could only be answered with a great deal of effort by the complainant, or not at all
- Processes often rely on patients assembling evidence (although, paradoxically, sometimes this is disbelieved in favour of a Trust’s explanation, as noted above), while PHSO reportedly does not make rigorous efforts to uncover evidence itself.
UKAJI did not publish the majority of these comments instead posting this from the administrator when challenged.
To avoid criticism of individuals is surely to deny the importance of leadership.
It suggests that things would have turned out the same no matter who was in charge. If this is the case then why do public bodies spend so much of our money using private recruitment agencies?
Gatenby Sanderson was the agency used to recruit Amanda Campbell to her CEO post. www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mandie_campbell_new_ceo
It is not clear how much her recruitment cost the taxpayer as Gatenby Sanderson does not appear on the schedule of payments for 2016/17, the year she was recruited. (October 2016)
However, in 2017/18 we can see that Gatenby Sanderson charged PHSO £268,972.80 to recruit two new staff members so we can assume a six-figure sum passed hands. Presumably, this significant sum of money indicates that leadership is important and as such leaders are responsible for the actions of their departments.
Amanda Campbell was the Director General of Immigration Enforcement from February 2014 until October 2016 and presided over a culture which has been roundly criticised by parliament and the media as callous, rigid and target driven, repeatedly breaching human rights and causing misery to thousands of British citizens denying them the right to work, the right to life saving NHS treatment and separating mothers from their young children.
Amanda Campbell is now CEO of the Ombudsman office. A position where she has enormous power over vulnerable individuals, many of whom are recently bereaved or have suffered life-changing trauma at the hands of a public body. Is she a ‘fit and proper person’ to carry out this role and can she confirm that she is able to apply the Nolan Principals of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership?
Let’s give the last word to UKAJI who concluded that;
One issue highlighted in the report is the guidance given to decision-makers within the Home Office, who, the report states, ‘appear to have considerable discretion in their decision-making, without a need to adequately reason and justify their decisions when deciding to deprive a person of their liberty’. This is an area that UKAJI and others have identified as needing research – the work of decision-makers across administrative justice, including initial decision-makers within government departments, those who undertake administrative or internal review of decisions, and tribunal members who make decisions on appeals to these initial decisions and reviews.
Using the authority of the Ombudsman Amanda Campbell is at liberty to make decisions with total discretion under the legislation governing PHSO. The investigation process is carried out in secret and staff can arbitrarily justify their decisions without any recourse to evidence. All reviews of decisions are carried out internally with no external oversight of the investigation process at any stage. Just as at the Home Office, this scandalous state of affairs has caused significant harm to many vulnerable citizens who have no-one else to turn to. We very much hope that any research will include this body and would be more than happy to provide our case stories to academics as evidence.
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