Posted: Wed 9th Aug 2023

Complaints to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales hit new record level

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Aug 9th, 2023

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has released its Annual Report for 2022/23, revealing a record number of new complaints received about public services, accompanied by a notable year of action and challenges.

Titled ‘A year of change – a year of challenge’, the report showcases a diverse picture across different sectors of public service.

While local council complaints fell by 11%, there was a 21% increase in complaints about Welsh Health Boards and a 15% uptick in complaints about Housing Associations.

Flintshire Council saw a 34% decrease in new complaints while Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board saw a 6% increase, the lowest of health boards in Wales.

A Year of More Action

Despite the growing caseload, the Ombudsman’s office achieved several milestones. It closed a record number of complaints about public services and found something wrong in 19% of cases, slightly more than the previous year’s 18%.

In a significant step towards early resolution, the Ombudsman proposed and agreed upon actions to resolve 3 out of 4 interventions at an early stage. However, around 1 in 4 interventions followed a full investigation.

The office issued 1,259 recommendations, with a 90% compliance rate. A Special Report was issued against Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority for failing to comply with recommendations first issued in 2019.

Mixed Trends in Code of Conduct Complaints

In its second role of investigating complaints about local councillors breaching their authority’s Code of Conduct, the Ombudsman received fewer such complaints.

It made 12 referrals in 2022/23, a reduction from the previous year’s 20. This suggests that standards of conduct in local government are generally good.

Driving Public Services Improvement

The Ombudsman’s third role, to drive public services improvement, continued despite the significant caseload increase.

By the end of 2022/23, a total of 51 bodies were brought under complaint standards, and 183 online training sessions were provided to these bodies on good complaint handling.

There were five public interest reports issued on complaints where serious failings in healthcare were found.

The office also consulted on a proposed investigation into access to and handling of needs assessments for unpaid carers.

Challenges Ahead

Despite these successes, the Ombudsman Michelle Morris acknowledged a challenging year, with more and more complaints about public services, especially in health.

“This workload meant that some people have had to wait longer for an outcome, and impacted the well-being of our staff,” she stated.

The Ombudsman has unveiled a new Strategic Plan, aiming to work more efficiently and have more impact.

However, increasing caseload pressures remain a growing concern.

The findings in this report reflect a complex picture of public service in Wales, with improvements in some areas and increasing challenges in others.

The Ombudsman’s office continues to adapt to the demands and remains committed to delivering change in service to the people of Wales, albeit acknowledging the resources and capacity constraints it faces.

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