Welsh ombudsman ‘needs extra powers to protect vulnerable’

13 May 15

The Public Service Ombudsman for Wales should have extra powers, including the ability to initiate investigations without having first received a complaint, a review has concluded.

A review of the work of the watchdog by the National Assembly for Wales’ finance committee concluded that it needed more powers to ensure its work was future-proof and citizen-centred.

The report, Consideration of Powers: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, set out a number of recommendations following an inquiry which examined five areas that the Ombudsman believed would improve its work under the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005.

The examination, published on Tuesday, found there was broad support for ‘own initiative’ investigation powers and stated it would be beneficial to the wider public, given that vulnerable groups are often unable or reluctant to complain.

These powers would also make it possible for the ombudsman to examine issues brought forward through whistle-blowing.

‘The committee recommends that should a bill be introduced, provisions should be included which provide the Ombudsman with powers to initiate own investigations,’ it concluded.

The report contains 18 recommendations, which also included a call for the ombudsman powers to accept oral complaints, handle complaints across public services, investigate private healthcare providers, and remove the statutory bar that prevents it from investigating a complaint that may have recourse in the courts.

Committee chair Jocelyn Davies said the committee found changes were needed to protect vulnerable people so they felt confident in complaining to the watchdog.

‘Undoubtedly we would all like to see a future in Wales that provides excellent public services but should that service fall short of an individual’s expectations, they need to have the confidence in the Ombudsman to investigate,’ she said.

‘We hope that should our recommendations be implemented this will enhance the role of the Ombudsman in Wales and increase public confidence.’

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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