Catalan Ombudsman and President of the European Ombudsman network, Rafael Ribo, addressed a seminar at Aberystwyth University last week (21st June). The event took place in advance of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales’ new powers coming into force in July.

The event, hosted jointly by the Ombudsman Association and the International Ombudsman Institute, explored how the new powers could help improve the delivery of public services in Wales and shared best practice from other European nations.

In July a new law comes into force which will make it easier for vulnerable and deprived members of society to complain about public services. People will be able to complain verbally or through British Sign Language, and potentially through other digital technologies in the future. The Ombudsman will also have the power to launch investigations without receiving a formal complaint, where there is evidence to suggest there could be a wider public interest issue.

Guests and speakers at the Seminar – entitled ‘New Powers and Possibilities: The Ombudsman and improving public service delivery’ – also included European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, Chair of the National Assembly for Wales Finance Committee Llyr Gruffydd and key academics.

Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said:

“This event was a fantastic opportunity to bring together the Ombudsman community and share best practice. We also looked at how my office’s new powers could give a greater voice to the voiceless.

“For example, we know that people are sometimes reluctant or scared to come forward, so the new legislation will allow a more proactive approach by my office.

“I am delighted that Rafael Ribo has returned to Wales to see the legislation in place. He was last here in October 2016 when he challenged Wales to adopt international best practice, so it’s great to welcome him back as we prepare to implement our new powers.”

Llyr Gruffydd, Chair of the National Assembly for Wales Finance Committee, said:

“The Ombudsman in Wales has a vital role in ensuring any member of the public who believes they have suffered injustice, hardship or service failure by a public body can make a complaint.

“By strengthening the Ombudsman’s role, we aim to improve social justice and protect the most vulnerable in society.

“It’s important to remember that the most vulnerable people are often the most reliant on public services. Should a service fall short of an individual’s expectations, they will have confidence in the Ombudsman to investigate and make things right.”