Scrutiny of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales annual report 2016-17

Nov 29, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 20 September 2017

14:35
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Spoken Contribution – 11:21
Watch this contribution on Senedd TV

You mentioned earlier—you didn’t mention it much, but it did come up—the sounding board concept that you’ve been doing in the last year or so. How do you think that’s been going?

Nick Bennett

It’s been going pretty well. It’s a concept that I borrowed from Scotland. My colleague the previous ombudsman developed it there, and his aim—mine is much the same—is to provide a safe space for bodies in jurisdiction to tell us what they really think about not just what we do, but how we do it. It’s been useful in terms of clarifying certain issues.

We’ve got three sounding boards: one on health, one on local government services and one for third sector and advocacy bodies. So, the health one’s been very useful. I think we’ve had two or three of those to clarify occasional misunderstandings in terms of what’s expected of the community health council in terms of the time limits that we will put on health complaints, in terms of the way in which we would deal with a counter-view coming from a health board when it comes to the role of the medical directors. So, that’s been useful. Local government has only met, I think, once, but, again, that’s been useful.

I have found particularly useful the one that we have with the users of our services and with third sector bodies—so, those people who deal with tenants, or the homeless, or people suffering different disabilities—because they can really give us feedback. Sometimes, you think you’re speaking human, but, actually, to some of those groups, we’re still speaking another language. So, we’ve had great feedback from them in terms of what we can do to be as accessible as possible, particularly to vulnerable groups, which are perhaps some of those groups who need our services the most, and to make sure that we really are speaking human and being as understandable and as appropriate as we can for people who might be in quite vulnerable circumstances.

It can be quite challenging. It’s good for the soul to get some of this feedback, but I think, overall, it does us good.