Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Questions (166)

Seán Fleming

Question:

166. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the waiting list in the Office of the Ombudsman for cases yet to be dealt with; the different waiting lists for different categories of complaints, that is, in respect of local authorities, health issues, social welfare issues and each Government Department; the length of time it takes in each of these categories for the cases to be assigned to a person and an investigation to commence, where it is deemed necessary to have such an investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43880/17]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I am advised that in 2016 the Office of the Ombudsman examined 3,110 complaints.  I understand that 79% of these were completed within 3 months and 96% were completed within 12 months.

The Office of the Ombudsman sets itself annual case turnaround targets and progress against targets is closely monitored by senior management. The deployment of staff and case handling structures and procedures are regularly reviewed by the Office’s Operations Review Group to ensure that the Office continues to work with maximum efficiency while at the same time maintaining casework quality standards.

All complaints received by the Office of the Ombudsman, regardless of the sector to which they relate, are initially handled by caseworkers in the Office's Early Resolution Unit.  This is to ensure that complaints are dealt with efficiently and effectively and where possible without the need for a formal examination or investigation.  70% of cases received are dealt with in this manner.

The process following Early Resolution is Examination.  This is where the complaint requires further information from either the Public Body or the Complainant or both and cannot be closed quickly.  Approximately 30% of the complaints received move to this stage.  Only a small minority of complaints go forward for investigation.

Broadly speaking cases are assigned in the order in which they are received regardless of the category.  As the service is demand led, the length of time it takes to assign any particular case within the Examination Unit, depends on the availability of caseworker capacity at any given time.

More complex cases are assigned to the most skilled and experienced caseworkers and inevitably take longer to complete. The assignment of cases is discussed on a weekly basis and is closely monitored by Senior Management within the Office of the Ombudsman.