A WATCHDOG upheld more than half (60 per cent) of the public complaints about the Home Office which it investigated last year.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which makes the final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the government, handled almost 7,000 complaints last year.

It completed 524 investigations into 655 organisations and upheld on average 34 per cent of complaints, but the rate was much higher for the Home Office.

Among the raft of failings it uncovered, UK Visas and Immigration and Border Force had to apologise to a woman who was given incorrect advice about her immigration status, eventually paying out £2,000 to cover the distress she suffered and the fees she incurred during the case.

Almost three-quarters of the ombudsman’s investigations were into four departments and their agencies – the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Of the complaints investigated, 31 per cent of those about the MoJ were upheld, 29 per cent about the DWP and three per cent about HMRC.

In one case, HM Courts and Tribunal Service had to apologise and pay money to a couple who suffered stress for two years as a result of errors that resulted in a visit from bailiffs, threatening letters and unlawful deductions from benefits.

In another, the DWP’s Independent Complaint Examiner apologised for failing to deal properly with a woman’s complaint about her right to Carer’s Allowance. The case also saw the Pension Service agree to write off a pension credit overpayment of nearly £10,000.

In all, the top four reasons for complaints about government departments were incorrect decisions, the complainant wanting a proper apology or action to put things right, poor communication and making a wrong assessment.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “Government departments successfully handle thousands of complaints every year, but where mistakes are made it’s important that they learn from them. This report shows that, when things go wrong, the impact on people can be very serious. I hope that public sector leaders will read this report carefully to see if there are ways they can learn from each other to improve the services they provide.”