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Complaints to Ombudsman's office hit highest level in over a decade

Emily O’Reilly says complaints to her office increased by 30 per cent last year in comparison with 2009, with almost half of all complaints relating to the civil service.

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.
Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE NUMBER of complaints made to the Office of the Ombudsman last year rose 30 per cent on 2009′s figures, pushing it to its highest level in over a decade.

In her annual report for 2010, Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly,  said that complaints about the civil service accounted for almost half of all of last year’s complaints – up 39 per cent on 2009.

Twenty-seven per cent of the complaints related  to the HSE (up 44 per cent), while another quarter related to local authorities (up 14 per cent). Complaints about An Post were also up in 2010, rising 1.5 per cent to 58 complaints.

O’Reilly said that the “huge upsurge in complaints” last year shows an increasing number of people are experiencing problems with public services, “especially with unemployment benefits”:

The rise of 53 per cent in complaints received about the Department of Social Protection in 2010 over 2009 – 1,181 as compared with 772 – comes as no surprise, given our economic situation. Clearly, people are engaging more with public bodies but this should not lead to lower standards or people being unfairly treated.

The report also outlines a number of case studies outlining incidents in which the Department of Social Protection reversed previous decision on welfare payments. These include its final decision, after the Ombudsman became involved in the case, to pay arrears of €11,178 in social welfare payments to a former garda who was injured while on duty.

The Ombudsman investigates complaints made regarding the actions of government departments, the HSE, local authorities and An Post. Over 1,300 complaints made to the Ombudsman’s office last year were outside of her jurisdiction – an increase of over a fifth on 2009.

Read the Ombudsman’s annual report for 2010 in full >

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