New law to strengthen Ombudsman’s powers needed in next Assembly, says National Assembly committee
A new law to strengthen the powers of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales should be introduced in the next National Assembly, says an Assembly committee.
The Finance Committee has considered how the Ombudsman's role can be developed in the future after concluding in a previous inquiry that, while the current role was working effectively and that the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005 was generally considered a model piece of Ombudsman legislation around the world, a new law to consolidate and future-proof the position was needed.
The original intention was to introduce a Bill in the current Assembly, however, due to timescales the Committee was unable to do so.
Therefore it has produced a draft Bill which Members recommend should be introduced by the new National Assembly for Wales following the election on May 5.
"The Ombudsman plays a vital role in ensuring that any member of the public who believes they have suffered injustice through maladministration or service failure by a public body, is able to make a complaint with the reassurance that their complaint will be dealt with fairly and independently," said Jocelyn Davies AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.
"For this reason, we sincerely hope this legislation is taken forward during the Fifth Assembly and that its implementation will enhance the role of the Ombudsman and increase public confidence in Wales."
The Committee agreed the following changes would improve and strengthen the Ombudsman's role, including:
- Own initiative investigation powers;
- Full discretion for the Ombudsman to decide how complaints can be made (including oral complaints);
- Complaints handling across public services; and
- Extending the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to include the private healthcare providers (in certain circumstances).
The Committee concluded that, rather than amending the 2005 Act, the Ombudsman's role should be governed by Welsh legislation.
Members' aim was to create one piece of bilingual legislation which would repeal (in relation to Wales) the 2005 Act and therefore help consolidate the Welsh statute book.More information about the Finance Committee.More information about the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.