Care Home Sponsor Licence Revocation Overturned on Judicial Review

care home judicial review sponsor licence revocation overturned

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As the Home Office continues its heightened scrutiny of the health and social care sector, the recent Judicial Review case of New Hope Care Ltd v Secretary of State for the Home Department will be of interest to care providers – as well as sponsor licence holders in other industries – where procedural failings have resulted in the successful legal challenge of a revoked sponsor licence.

 

Sponsor Licence Revocation Background

 

New Hope Care Ltd, a care home operator, held a UK sponsor licence permitting them to sponsor foreign workers under the Skilled Worker route, Health and Care Worker sub-category. In October 2023, following a compliance audit that identified breaches of sponsor duties, the organisation’s licence was revoked by the Home Office.

New Hope Care challenged the decision through a judicial review application, citing four main grounds:

 

  1. Irrationality: New Hope Care argued the decision to revoke was illogical considering the nature of the alleged breaches.
  2. Misdirection: They claimed the Home Office misinterpreted the term “based in the UK” regarding their Authorising Officer’s location.
  3. Procedural Unfairness: New Hope Care asserted they weren’t given a fair chance to address the concerns before the revocation.
  4. Global Assessment: The company argued the Home Office failed to consider the wider impact of revoking the licence on employees and residents.

 

Procedural Unfairness

 

The court partially granted New Hope Care’s application, finding merit in the claim of procedural unfairness (Ground 3). On the facts, the Home Office had only attempted one follow-up visit after the initial audit identified issues. The licence was also revoked despite the Authorising Officer requesting a rescheduled interview due to unforeseen circumstances (they had been detained outside of the UK). The court ruled this lack of opportunity to respond constituted procedural unfairness.

On the ground of irrationality, the court found the decision itself was not inherently illogical, although the specific breaches might be debatable. In relation to misdirection, the court agreed “based in” refers to a usual place of residence, but temporary absences would not disqualify the Authorising Officer.

The matter of global assessment was not ruled on in this matter, since the court found in favour of New Hope Care based on procedural unfairness.

The court therefore ruled against the Home Office’s decision to revoke New Hope Care’s sponsor licence.

 

Implications for Care Providers and Sponsor Licence Holders

 

The decision in this case does not in itself mean the company’s licence will be reinstated – it simply means the Home Office must follow a fair and lawful procedure, potentially including a re-interview with the Authorising Officer, before potentially revoking the licence again.

By drawing specific attention to failings in the Home Office’s response to potential immigration breaches, this case also  highlights the importance of procedural fairness in Home Office decisions related to sponsor licences. Procedural requirements are in place to ensure lawful and consistent application of the rules, and in this matter, the Home Office was deemed to have fallen short of the required standards. For care home operators, and sponsor licence holders in general, the matter underscores the importance of seeking professional advice if facing enforcement action, not least to assess and determine if the Home Office has acted in accordance with its obligations.

On a granular level, the case also clarifies that a temporary absence from the UK would not necessarily disqualify an Authorising Officer from being “based in” the country.

On the question of a global assessment, the judge preferred the argument that serious breaches of sponsor licence compliance cannot be mitigated by considering the impact on visa holders and care home residents. However, this point currently remains subject to conflicting case law and a pending appeal, but should the position from New Hope be established in a future challenge, it will be a cause for concern for care providers since the Home Office will not have to factor in the interests of residents or the NHS – along with practical issues such as bed blocking – when deciding to revoke a licence.

Finally, the case serves as a reminder that care home providers – and sponsor licence holders in general – must ensure their immigration compliance procedures, systems and documentation meet the requirements and that the organisation is ‘match’-fit’ for an immigration inspection at any time.

 

Need Assistance?

 

DavidsonMorris has extensive experience defending employers against allegations of immigration breaches and providing specialist guidance to challenge Home Office enforcement action. We also provide a range of packages and services to support immigration compliance through training, auditing and documentation.

For more information about our expert compliance services, or if your organisation is facing Home Office penalty, such as a suspended or revoked licence, contact us .

 

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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