We learn from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) website that CEO Amanda Amroliwala is stepping down.

This announcement came shortly after Waspi Ltd issued legal papers (24.2.23) to judicially review the second stage report looking at DWP maladministration in its handling of the rise in state pension age. Amanda has been the face of the Waspi investigation – as shown in this clip from the last PACAC scrutiny meeting (November 2022).

Now that the Ombudsman has reluctantly decided to ‘take another look’ there is every possibility that she will no longer be in the hot seat when the final report is published. Amanda Amroliwala informs us that the Ombudsman Rob Behrens is also stepping down in March 2024.

PHSO originally took up the Waspi complaints in 2017 with a promise to speed up resolution. Given the slow rate of progress, the final report may be delayed until both the Ombudsman and his CEO have moved onto pastures new. Any concerns about the outcome would then be presented to a management team who could legitimately show a clean pair of hands.

Amanda Amroliwala (nee Campbell) took up her position as CEO in October 2016, replacing the disgraced deputy Ombudsman Mick Martin. She had moved from the Home Office where she had worked as a civil servant for thirty-one years. Her most recent role being Director General of Immigration Enforcement which she took up in February 2014 during the time of Theresa May’s  ‘hostile environment policy’ By April 2018 the illegal deportation of Windrush British citizens became a national scandal. Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to resign following leaks of deportation targets. On the appointment of Sajid Javid as Home Secretary some MPs questioned whether key civil servants, such as Amanda (Mandie) Campbell received payments for meeting these targets.

Sajid Javid decided that it would be a waste of resources to pursue the matter and consequently no further action was taken and no civil servants were ever held to account.

Many people suffered life-long harm from the decisions made at the Home Office during this time. They were asked to provide proof of entry by officials who knew that Windrush landing cards had been destroyed in 2010. They were denied access to education, to health care and housing and in some cases were forcibly deported to a country they may never have visited. As Director General Amanda was able to make these difficult decisions and meet her targets.

As CEO at the Ombudsman’s office she has also had to make life-changing decisions and the very low uphold rate results in well over 90% of people leaving the process with nothing but disappointment. This review on Trustpilot is typical of the public experience.

In most cases the Ombudsman denies justice on an individual basis. That person must then fight for a review or retreat from the process with their confidence in the system destroyed. In the case of the Waspi complaint, the final report will be seen by over 3 million affected women, many of whom have campaigned long and hard for justice and compensation. If the final report fails to address the concerns of these women many will not go quietly to lick their wounds.

A good time to exit and avoid the inevitable backlash?