Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman condemned as 'unfit for purpose'

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman comes in for heavy criticism of it's failure to deal properly with complaints and give people a fair hearing against poor public services.

The Herald reports (with some interesting comments on the Herald website) :

Road to the Western Isles is lined with mountains of complaints


Residents of the Western Isles made more official complaints about public services per head of population than anywhere else in Scotland last year.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman revealed there were nearly twice the level of complaints per capita in the Outer Hebrides than the Scottish average. By contrast, people living in and around Aberdeen were least likely to complain.

In a measure of complaints using Scottish postcodes, the Western Isles produced six complaints per 10,000 people while Aberdeen produced 2.4 compared to a Scotland-wide total of 3.4. Edinburgh also weighed in above average, with 4.1 complaints per 10,000.

But despite a huge upsurge in the level of inquiries and complaints received by the ombudsman, most were found to be spurious, with only 2% of complaints fully upheld last year.

A further 6% were partly upheld, but the vast majority failed - in many cases, because complainants had not first exhausted the complaints procedure with the public body they were complaining about.

Out of those cases which went on to be fully investigated and reported to parliament, the proportion fully upheld was 13% and a further 33% were upheld in part.

The figures were disclosed in the annual report of Professor Alice Brown, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, who investigates complaints about local government, health, housing the Scottish Government, quangos, and higher and further education.

Her staff handled more than 4200 inquiries and complaints last year, a 21% rise in inquiries but only a 7% rise in complaints.

Of the 1826 complaints which were closed during the year - some of which had been lodged the previous year - 41% were classed as "premature", 20% were deemed out of jurisdiction, 12% were discontinued before they could be investigated, 9% were either withdrawn or failed to provide enough information, 9% were not upheld, 6% were partially upheld, 2% were fully upheld and 1% were discontinued while they were being investigated.

Out of that total, some 315 complaints, or 17%, resulted in investigation reports being sent to parliament.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Watch

No comments: