Welsh Ombudsman sees sharp rise in public services complaints and serious Code of Conduct findings
he Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has reported significant increases both in the number of new complaints received about public services and in Code of Conduct investigations finding serious concerns.
The data, presented in the watchdog's Annual Report for 2021/22, show that complaints about public services rose by 45% when compared to last year and 22% more than in 2019/20.
The report also revealed that the Ombudsman made the most referrals to a higher body following a Code of Conduct investigation in nine years.
While the office received more complaints about Health Boards, there were "significant increases" in complaints about local authorities and housing associations, the Ombudsman said.
Of the cases concerning public services complaints it closed in the year, it found problems and intervened in 18% of those cases – a slightly lower proportion than the previous two years (20%).
Mostly, the Ombudsman intervened by proposing 'Early Resolution' to deliver justice quickly without the need for a full investigation. However, 31% of the interventions followed a full investigation – the office upheld or partially upheld 77% of all the investigations that it closed.
During 2021/22, the Ombudsman received 294 complaints about councillors breaching the Code of Conduct. According to the report, this was fewer than last year, but 27% more than in the year before that.
Sixty per cent of those complaints were about councillors at Town and Community Councils, and just over a half were about how councillors promoted equality and respect, the report said.
In 2021/22, the Ombudsman made 20 referrals to the Standards Committee of the relevant local authority or the Adjudication Panel for Wales following Code of Conduct investigations, the highest number since 2012/13. It made twice the number of referrals than in the previous year.
The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Michelle Morris, said: “As I start my term as Ombudsman, I would like to pay tribute to Nick Bennett, my predecessor, and to the staff in the office for their hard work in continuing to deliver services through what has undoubtedly been the most challenging couple of years for the public sector in Wales.
She added: "Our public services continue to work under considerable pressure. They have continued to work with us to ensure that we can properly deal with issues when they go wrong and that we all learn lessons from that experience. We will continue to work with them to make sure that they emerge stronger post-pandemic and that service users continue to receive proper redress when things go wrong."