Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Recession blamed as complaints soar

The recession has been blamed for an increase in complaints against public bodies, including An Post

Ireland's public services watchdog has blamed the recession for a massive hike in complaints against civil servants and the health service.

Emily O'Reilly, the Ombudsman, revealed a 30% jump in the number of people contacting her office last year - notching up a record 10-year high in grievances.

The Ombudsman is charged with investigating complaints from people who feel they have been unfairly treated by government departments, the Health Service Executive (HSE), local authorities and An Post.

In her annual report, Ms O'Reilly said there was a 39% rise in accusations levelled against the civil service - making up nearly half of all complaints to the office - while disagreements with the HSE soared 44%.

"It is evident from the huge upsurge in complaints made to me in 2010, a new record high, that growing numbers of people are experiencing difficulties with our public services, especially with unemployment and benefits," she said.

"The rise of 53% 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."

There was also a 23% increase in complaints against An Post and 14% more disagreements with local authorities.

Ms O'Reilly also "named and shamed" five government departments and six local authorities who repeatedly refused to improve information about people's right to make complaints to the Ombudsman.

They include the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Department of Education and Skills, Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice and Equality.

Local councils criticised for not adequately drawing attention to the Ombudsman included Carlow County Council, Clare County Council, Fingal County Council, Galway County Council, Kerry County Council and Donegal County Council.

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