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.
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Scrutiny 2021–22
Sixth Report of Session 2022–23
Published on 31 March 2023
If they are feeling the heat, maybe regional roadshows are a way of getting out of the office to cool down!
’91. The Ombudsman told the Committee in oral evidence in November 2022 that reaching “marginalised and vulnerable communities” is a core element of the 2022–25 Corporate Strategy.’
(seven people turned up for the roadshow)
Not sure if ‘concern’ translates into heat:
’40. The Committee is concerned by the fact that the PHSO has not met any of its targets for the overall section Service Charter scores in the 2021–22 financial year. The Committee had previously understood that the scores were expected to improve as waiting times for cases to be allocated and closed were reduced.’
Could buy some fans with this, though all the ‘ambitious change’ might work up a sweat:
’59. In oral evidence to the Committee, the Chief Executive confirmed that the PHSO received an increased budget of 17% in real terms compared to the previous budget, which was granted “because of the pandemic and the pressures on our service” and its ambitious “change agenda”.’
A nice cool breeze from the Peer Review:
’63. The findings of the Peer Review are broadly complimentary of the PHSO…’
(What a surprise!)
Venice principles – MELTDOWN!
‘ 73. The 2022 Peer Review Panel concurred that the PHSO’s statutory framework is out of date and in many respects does not comply with the Venice Principles. Of 25 Venice Principles, the Panel found the PHSO is either partially consistent or not consistent with 13.’
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE Claim No: CO/793/2023
KING’S BENCH DIVISION
THE KING on the application of
WOMEN AGAINST STATE PENSION INEQUALITY LIMITED
PARLIAMENTARY AND HEALTH SERVICE OMBUDSMAN
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WORK AND PENSIONS AND OTHERS
’12. The PHSO accepts that its approach to calculating injustice, as described above, failed sufficiently to consider the potential effect of the pause periods and was legally flawed for that reason. ‘
I am not sure that the Waspi victory is as great as made out in this article:
Will the potential effect of the pause periods mean anything in respect of financial injustice or will it just add a small percentage to the compensation recommended for maladministration?
Knowing what a nasty organisation the PHSO is I expect they will take the opportunity to delay the production of the revised stage 2 report for several more months. When it is finally produced there will probably be little if any change to the compensation amount but the report will have been amended to make it proof against judicial review. Sadly I think that WASPI are deluding themselves if they think that this minor setback for the PHSO is some sort of victory that will lead to a significant increase in the compensation offered. Although the PHSO admit that the report is legally flawed they also claim to be “confident that we have completed a fair and impartial investigation”
I’m sure you are right Nicholas. They will find a way around the issue brought by Bindmans but it will be interesting to see how they do it. There will certainly be a long delay now to let the heat die down.
I totally agree that WASPI are deluding themselves. From their website:
‘This is a huge victory for WASPI – and 1950s born women. It will maximise the chances of compensation for the DWP’s maladministration being decided on a proper basis which recognises the full extent of the injustice.’
How far below the maximum do they think the recommendations in the legally flawed report are? Can compensation for maladministration alone recognise the full injustice? How many billions are WASPI expecting the final report to cost the DWP?
Even if the PHSO did recommend large compensation (which it won’t) the DWP can ignore the recommendation.
Interesting to see that at 9.20 in the video Amanda Amroliwala, when asked about the delay in producing the report, states that it is so that they can examine all the evidence to be sure that “everyone can have confidence in the findings”. But when the report was produced no-one who saw it had any confidence in the findings and even the PHSO had so little confidence in the report that they backed down from judicial review to take another look at the report, while at the same time claiming that they did in fact have full confidence in the findings!
Great article. Very interesting to see the CEO and Ombudsman prepare to flee the sinking ship as things heat up as the WASPI case casts a spotlight on the PHSO (although Behrens is due to leave next March anyway as his term as Ombudsman expires then).
It is sad though to see yet further delay in paying compensation to WASPI women as the PHSO have agreed to look again at their decision to avoid judicial review. How much longer will they drag it out for? Will the final decision be published after Amanda Amroliwala has left the organisation? One thing is certain though, she won’t have to go in front of PACAC to answer for the PHSO’s failures in this case, and Behrens can make any promises he chooses to, knowing that he won’t be around to answer for any future failures.
It is interesting to see that Amanda Amroliwala has decided to move on after 6 years when she stayed at the Home Office for 31 years. Announcement seemed to come out of the blue. Let’s see where she pops up next.
‘Changing of horses midstream.’ May I add to this quagmire of obfuscation and concealment, and tell you about the mystery of the sudden disappearance of a case investigator moments before a report was due to be issued that upheld my complaint, only for her to miraculously reappear moments later once said report had been destroyed and a new case worker was in place with a subsequent report that no longer upheld my complaint. The Ombudsman is a magician too, it seems. You can read about these shenanigans here:
Don’t waste your time with PHSO, it serves as nothing more than to cover up the cover ups . Self interests before public duty, candor and patient safety.
Thanks for posting and sharing your interesting thoughts on the timing of this departure. I have noted over the past years that a number of tricky (individual) investigations have suffered from the changing of horses in midstream..my own included – the third investigator phoned out of the blue to introduce herself and to say she was now handling the case.
Refreshing to see PACAC pressing for answers and trying to secure deadlines, albeit in a gentlemanly fashion.
No doubt some agency will rake it in, trying to track down a successor.
Top tip for Amanda, I wonder if there is room at Demos think tank? I imagine Dame Julie Mellor (former PHSOmbud who resigned) would help her settle in, find her a desk and arrange the executive toys.
I’m sure there is something sweet lined up for Amanda Amroliwala – after all she has proved herself to be a very loyal servant to the state.
The Youtube clip of Ms Amroliwala is revealing in that it appears to show confusion among committee members about how the Ombudsman recommends compensation. There is no category on the scale of injustice specifically for ‘maladministration’.
‘Where is maladministration on the table [scale of injustice]?’ A perfectly good question following on from what was said before, but as Ms Amroliwala explained, it could be anywhere, but generally no higher than level 4 (9:35). And when asked if she is taking into consideration the wider losses of pensioners she said ‘that IS PART OF maladministration consideration; it’s about lost opportunity to consider plans’. Aren’t the wider losses much wider?
Some people watching the clip might have erroneously concluded that the money pensioners missed out on might be taken into consideration when recommending the amount of compensation they should receive. It’s not the money, it’s the ‘lost opportunity’.
What the Ombudsman recommended in 2021/22:
The 35 parliamentary cases include two at level 4 totalling less than £3,000.
If we knew more about the six level 5 and 6 cases, we would have a better idea about how bad things have to be for the Ombudsman to recommend compensation at either of the two highest levels.
Yes I noted that the confusion nay ignorance regarding the compensation scale.
Very interesting to see the payouts from previous years. Of course, in the Waspi case, any payout could be x 3.6 million women and no doubt that will be taken into account.
Very useful table, thanks Jeff. It is rather confusing though as Amanda Amroliwala claims that maladministration is generally no higher than level 4 and yet there are a similar number of parliamentary complaints, which involve maladministration, at level 5 & 6, as there are health complaints at level 5 & 6. In fact there are proportionally more parliamentary complaints at level 5 & 6 then health complaints.
Perhaps what she is really trying to say is simply that she doesn’t regard the maladministration of the women’s pensions as resulting in serious harm, but knows that saying such a thing would not go down well with the committee.
‘Perhaps what she is really trying to say is simply that she doesn’t regard the maladministration of the women’s pensions as resulting in serious harm, but knows that saying such a thing would not go down well with the committee.’
But even serious harm – DEATH – can result in a recommendation of £1,000:
I forgot that we do have some information about big compensation recommendations (levels 5 and 6). Here is one where almost all of the compensation recommended was for the complainant’s loss of entitlement. Only £1,000 for poor complaint handling.
When Ms Amroliwala was pressed on whether the Ombudsman would be taking factors other than maladministration into account, she mentioned the ‘lost opportunity’ of pensioners but nothing about the loss of entitlement.
‘Wrong advice leads to £45k pay out for farmer
20 March 2015
A young farmer has now received the £45k he was denied by the Rural Payments Agency, following a Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigation.
The farmer, in his 20s, from Herefordshire had been complaining to the Rural Payments Agency for three years in order to receive the money he believed that he was entitled to under the European Union’s Single Payment Scheme, an income support for farmers.
The farmer tried to have his entitlements – without which you cannot claim the subsidy – put into his name, as they were previously under his grandparent’s name.
When his farm secretary called up the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to make the change, there was a problem with the computer system and she was told not to send the form which would put the entitlements in his name. This advice was wrong and as a result the farmer missed the deadline for claiming.
The farm secretary called the RPA, before the deadline, to check several times if the computer problem was fixed. The computer problem wasn’t fixed and she was never asked to send in the form, meaning the deadline was missed.
Following an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, he has now received a £45,377.30 payment by the RPA equivalent to the subsidy he would have received, plus £1,468.71 interest and an additional £1,000 for the poor service he received from the RPA.’
(no link, I’m afraid)
‘Over £40,000 payment to farmer after incorrect advice
Putting it right
Summary 262 | August 2014
As a result we asked RPA to apologise to Mr J, pay him £1,000 for its poor complaint handling and pay him his single payment scheme entitlement for 2011 plus interest.’
There is no doubt the Ombudsman can deliver justice and remedy but it does so extremely rarely. The difference here may be that 3.6 million farmers are not expecting the same result.
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The scale and the levels within it are used depending on the “impact” of any maladministration found. Maladministration is the failing. Therefore that doesn’t have a level in the scale. The impact as a result of the failing is what fits into the various levels of the scale.
With WASPI, the impact being considered by PHSO is not the fact millions of women have been left with lesser pensions. The court has already determined that the state’s decision was fine and this money is gone.
PHSO is looking at the impact arising from not being told at the earliest opportunity about the change in state pension age. This is a lesser impact. People could have prepared better if they were aware sooner, but that is a hard thing to put a figure to, surely.
It’s a very difficult decision for the Ombudsman – particularly when you multiply it by 3.6 million.