Complaints make public services better says Ombudsman Tyndall

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall wants to see more people complain about services provided by public bodies such as government departments, local authorities and the HSE. Launching his annual report for 2015 today (2 June 2016) the Ombudsman said that complaints can be used to improve the delivery of public services.

 

 

“In most cases the delivery of public services goes well. However, if people don’t complain when things go wrong then people will experience the same problems over and over again. When people complain it gives service providers an opportunity to put things right and to stop the same mistakes happening again.” – Ombudsman Peter Tyndall
Complaints to the Ombudsman rise

 

Complaints to the Ombudsman rose by 3% in 2015 to 3,641. This follows an 11% increase in complaints in 2014. The most complained about sector was the civil service with 1,397 complaints while local authorities accounted for 1,006 complaints. The HSE was the subject of 585 complaints.

 


Investigation into hospital complaints systems

 

In 2015 the Ombudsman conducted the Office’s first ‘own-initiative’ investigation into hospital complaints systems. In his report – Learning to Get Better – the Ombudsman noted the low level of complaints about hospitals that his office received. The Ombudsman said that people told him they were afraid to complain because of possible consequences for their treatment, or that they believed complaining would not make a difference. The Ombudsman’s wide-ranging report contains 36 recommendations aimed at improving hospital complaints system for patients. All the recommendations were accepted by the HSE. However, the Ombudsman has expressed concern over the delay by the HSE in acting on his recommendations.

 

 

Private nursing homes

 

Private nursing homes came within the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in August 2015. The Ombudsman received 12 complaints about private nursing homes in 2015 and 13 in the first five months of 2016. As part of an engagement programme the Ombudsman’s Office designed a Model Complaints System for use by Nursing Home providers which can be adapted for use by all public service providers. The Model Complaints System is available on the Ombudsman’s website www.ombudsman.ie

 


The Ombudsman also described some of the more significant cases dealt with by his Office during 2015
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Student asked to read from wrong paper when assessed for reading ability

 

Candidates with a disability or condition which may impair their performance in an exam can seek a ‘reasonable accommodation’ from the State Examinations Commission (SEC) to facilitate them taking the exam. In one complaint to the Ombudsman a student with Asperger’s syndrome was refused a ‘reader’ – a person to assist with reading an exam paper – for a Leaving Certificate examination by the SEC. The student was sitting three higher level subjects. The Ombudsman discovered from the SEC’s files that during his assessment the student had been asked to read from ‘ordinary level’ papers which did not reflect his reading difficulties. The Ombudsman highlighted the error to the SEC who provided a ‘reader’ in time for the Leaving Certificate examination.   See page 36 – Section 4.8

 

 

Woman receives €28,000 after Department incorrectly said child was ‘not abandoned’

 

A woman was refused a ‘guardian’ payment for her granddaughter who she was rearing in the absence of the child’s parents. The Department of Social Protection was not satisfied that the child met the criterion of having been ‘abandoned’ by her parents. However after a complaint was made to the Ombudsman, the Social Welfare Appeals Office reviewed assessments on file from Department officials, and statements from the child’s mother and grandmother, which suggested the child had been abandoned. The Appeals Office decided that the guardian payment, together with arrears of €28,000, should be paid to the woman. See page 37. Section 4.11

 

 

Mother and two children receive housing after 10 years on housing list

 

A woman complained to the Ombudsman after waiting ten years for social housing from Kildare County Council for herself and her two children. Her family had moved from previous rented accommodation due to high costs. However, she had difficulties securing private rented accommodation as many landlords refused to accept tenants who were on rent allowance. She had been given notice to quit from her current landlord who wanted the accommodation for a family member. She had made Kildare County Council aware of her circumstances and the Council accepted she had been waiting a long time for housing. However the Council said it had 6,500 applicants for housing and priority was given to more vulnerable groups such as homeless people and those living in unfit accommodation.   When the Ombudsman raised the issue of her family being evicted by the landlord and her efforts to find housing by moving to different areas, the Council reassessed her application. The woman and her two children were allocated a home which became available through a voluntary housing association. See page 42. Section 4.16

 

 

Dog owner fined based solely on allegation

 

A man was fined by Cork County Council after it received a complaint about his dog attacking a third party. The man contested the case in the District Court. He also complained to the Ombudsman that the fine was based solely on an allegation, that the council had not established the facts of the case, and that there was no formal appeals procedure to allow him contest the fine. The Ombudsman established that the Council had a policy of fining dog owners following receipt of a signed written statement without investigating the complaint. He considered this unfair and asked the Council to review the policy. The Council amended its procedures to provide that both the complainant and the owner of the dog are contacted as part of its investigation. The man did not have to pay the fine and he also received his court costs.

 

See page 40. Section 4.14

 

 

 

 

 

Feabhsaítear seirbhísí poiblí le gearáin, dar leis an Ombudsman Tyndall

 

 

Ba mhaith le Peter Tyndall, an tOmbudsman, go ndéanfadh tuilleadh daoine gearán faoi sheirbhísí a gcuireann comhlachtaí poiblí amhail ranna rialtais, údaráis áitiúla agus Feidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte (FSS) iad ar fáil. Ag seoladh a thuarascála bliantúla don bhliain 2015 dó inniu (an 2 Meitheamh 2016), dúirt an tOmbudsman gur féidir gearáin a úsáid chun an soláthar seirbhísí poiblí a fheabhsú.

 

 

“Sa chuid is mó de chásanna, próiseas rathúil is ea an soláthar seirbhísí poiblí. Mura ndéanann daoine gearán nuair a théann cúrsaí chun donais, áfach, beidh na deacrachtaí céanna ag daoine arís is arís eile. Nuair a dhéanann daoine gearán, bíonn deis ag soláthraithe seirbhíse nithe a chur ina gceart agus a chinntiú nach ndéanfar na meancóga sin choíche.” – Peter Tyndall, an tOmbudsman

 

 

Tá méadú tagtha ar ghearáin a rinneadh leis an Ombudsman

 

Tháinig méadú 3% ar ghearáin a rinneadh leis an Ombudsman sa bhliain 2015. B’ionann iad agus 3,641 ghearán. Tháinig sé sin sna sála ar mhéadú 11% ar an líon gearán a rinneadh sa bhliain 2014. Ba í an státseirbhís an earnáil a ndearnadh an líon ba mhó gearán ina haghaidh. Rinneadh 1,397 ngearán ina haghaidh sa bhliain. Rinneadh 1,006 ghearán in aghaidh údaráis áitiúla. Rinneadh 585 ghearán faoi FSS.

 

 

Imscrúdú ar chórais ghearán in ospidéil

 

Sa bhliain 2015, rinne an tOmbudsman an chéad imscrúdú ‘féintionscnaimh’ de chuid na hOifige ar chórais ghearán in ospidéil. Sa tuarascáil uaidh dar teideal Foghlaim ar son Feabhais, thug an tOmbudsman dá aire an líon íseal gearán a fuair a oifig faoi ospidéil. Dúirt an tOmbudsman gur inis daoine leo go raibh eagla orthu roimh ghearán a dhéanamh de bharr na n-iarmhairtí a d’fhéadfadh a bheith ar an gcóireáil a chuirfí ar fáil dóibh nó mar gur chreid siad nach ndéanfaí difear dá ndéanfadh siad gearán. Cuimsíonn an tuarascáil fhadréimseach ón Ombudsman 36 mholadh atá dírithe ar chórais ghearán in ospidéil a fheabhsú d’othair. Ghlac FSS le gach ceann de na moltaí. Mar sin féin, chuir an tOmbudsman in iúl go raibh imní air faoin moill a bhí ann sular ghníomhaigh FSS ar a chuid moltaí.

 

 

 

Tithe altranais príobháideacha

 

Tháinig tithe altranais príobháideacha faoi dhlínse an Ombudsman i mí Lúnasa 2015. Fuair an tOmbudsman 12 ghearán faoi thithe altranais príobháideacha sa bhliain 2015 agus fuair sé 13 cinn sa chéad chúig mhí den bhliain 2016. Mar chuid de chlár rannpháirtíochta, dhear Oifig an Ombudsman Córas Eiseamláireach Gearán lena úsáid ag soláthraithe tí altranais. Is féidir é a oiriúnú lena úsáid ag gach soláthraí seirbhíse poiblí freisin. Tá an Córas Eiseamláireach Gearán ar fáil ar shuíomh Gréasáin an Ombudsman ag www.ombudsman.ie

 

 

Chomh maith leis sin, rinne an tOmbudsman cur síos ar roinnt de na cásanna ba thábhachtaí ar dhéileáil a Oifig leo sa bhliain 2015:

 

 

Iarradh ar dhalta sliocht a léamh ón bpáipéar mícheart le linn measúnú a dhéanamh ar a chumas léitheoireachta

 

Iarrthóirí ag a bhfuil míchumas nó riocht a d’fhéadfadh cur isteach orthu le linn dóibh scrúdú a dhéanamh, féadfaidh siad ‘freastal réasúnta’ a iarraidh ó Choimisiún na Scrúduithe Stáit (SEC) chun iad a éascú an scrúdú a dhéanamh. I gcás gearáin amháin a rinneadh chuig an Ombudsman, dhiúltaigh an SEC ‘léitheoir’ – duine a chabhraíonn le dalta scrúdpháipéar a léamh – a chur ar fáil do dhalta a bhfuil Siondróm Asperger air le haghaidh scrúdú Ardteistiméireachta. Bhí an dalta chun tabhairt faoi thrí ábhar ardleibhéil. Le linn dó measúnú a dhéanamh ar chomhaid an SEC ar an gcás, fuair an tOmbudsman amach gurbh ó pháipéir ‘ghnáthleibhéil’ a iarradh ar an dalta sleachta a léamh agus nár léiríodh a dheacrachtaí léitheoireachta dá bharr sin. Tharraing an tOmbudsman aird an SEC ar an earráid agus, ina dhiaidh sin, chuir an SEC ‘léitheoir’ ar fáil don dalta roimh an scrúdú Ardteistiméireachta.   Féach leathanach 36 – Rannán 4.8

 

 

Fuair bean €28,000 tar éis don Roinn a rá go mícheart nach raibh leanbh ‘tréigthe’

 

Diúltaíodh íocaíocht ‘caomhnóra’ do bhean i dtaca lena gariníon a bhí á tógáil aici in éagmais thuismitheoirí an linbh. Níor dheimhin leis an Roinn Coimirce Sóisialaí gur chomhlíon an leanbh an critéar maidir lena bheith ‘tréigthe’ ag a tuismitheoirí. Tar éis gearán a dhéanamh chuig an Ombudsman, áfach, rinne an Oifig Achomhairc Leasa Shóisialaigh athbhreithniú ar na measúnuithe a bhí i seilbh oifigigh na Roinne agus ar ráitis ó mháthair agus ó sheanmháthair an linbh araon, inar tugadh le fios gurbh amhlaidh gur tréigeadh an leanbh. Chinn an Oifig Achomhairc gur cheart an íocaíocht caomhnóra, mar aon le riaráiste €28,000, a íoc leis an mbean. Féach leathanach 37 – Rannán 4.11

 

 

Fuair máthair agus a beirt leanaí teach tar éis dóibh 10 mbliana a chaitheamh ar an liosta tithíochta

 

Rinne bean gearán chuig an Ombudsman tar éis di fanacht ar feadh deich mbliana le tithíocht shóisialta ó Chomhairle Contae Chill Dara di féin agus dá beirt leanaí. Ba de bharr ardchostas a bhog an teaghlach amach as an gcóiríocht ar cíos a bhí acu roimhe sin. Bhí deacracht aici, áfach, cóiríocht phríobháideach ar cíos a fháil mar gheall gur dhiúltaigh a lán tiarnaí talún do ghlacadh le tionóntaí a bhí ag fáil liúntas cíosa. Fuair sí fógra chun an chóiríocht a fhágáil mar gheall go raibh a tiarna talún reatha ag iarraidh an teach a thabhairt do bhall teaghlaigh dá chuid. Chuir sí Comhairle Contae Chill Dara ar an eolas faoina cúinsí agus ghlac an Chomhairle leis go raibh sí ag fanacht le tithíocht le tréimhse fhada. Mar sin féin, dúirt an Chomhairle go raibh 6,500 duine ar a liosta tithíochta ag an am agus go dtugtar tús áite do ghrúpaí leochaileacha amhail daoine gan dídean agus daoine a bhfuil cónaí orthu i gcóiríocht neamhoiriúnach.   Nuair a chuir an tOmbudsman in iúl go raibh an teaghlach á chur amach as an teach agus go ndearna an bhean iarracht cheana féin teach a fháil ach bogadh chuig ceantar eile, rinne an Chomhairle athmheasúnú ar a hiarratas. Leithdháileadh teach ar an mbean agus ar a mbeirt leanaí ansin, teach ar chuir eagraíocht tithíochta dheonach ar fáil é. Féach leathanach 42 – Rannán 4.16

 

 

Gearradh fíneáil ar úinéir madra bunaithe ar líomhain amháin

 

Ghearr Comhairle Contae Chorcaí fíneáil ar fhear tar éis di líomhain a fháil go ndearna a mhadra ionsaí ar thríú páirtí. Rinne an fear agóid in aghaidh na fíneála sa Chúirt Dúiche. Rinne sé gearán chuig an Ombudsman freisin gurbh ar líomhain amháin a bhí an fhíneáil bunaithe, nár bhunaigh an Chomhairle fíricí an cháis ar dtús, agus nach raibh aon nós imeachta foirmiúil achomhairc ann trína bhféadfadh sé agóid a dhéanamh in aghaidh na fíneála. Fuair an tOmbudsman amach go raibh sé de bheartas ag an gComhairle fíneáil a ghearradh ar úinéirí madra tar éis ráiteas sínithe i scríbhinn a fháil agus gan imscrúdú a dhéanamh ar an ngearán. Mheas sé gur mhíchothrom a bhí an beartas sin agus d’iarr sé ar an gComhairle athbhreithniú a dhéanamh air. Leasaigh an Chomhairle a cuid nósanna imeachta ansin chun a fhoráil go ndéanfaí teagmháil leis an ngearánach agus le húinéir an mhadra araon mar chuid dá himscrúduithe amach anseo. Ní raibh ar an bhfear an fhíneáil a íoc agus íocadh a chostais chúirte leis chomh maith.

 

Féach leathanach 40 – Rannán 4.14

 

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