2020 has been a tremendously difficult year for all public services in Wales including PSOW.

The global pandemic has brought huge personal and professional challenges and fundamentally changed the way we work.

There are some reasons for cheer though.

Working from home has meant an entirely new way of delivering our service, and I am extremely proud of the way my staff has adapted to such difficult circumstances. In particular, my IT department has worked tirelessly through an almost unthinkable amount of radical change, and we are now a more agile and adaptive organisation as a result.

We have also put in a huge amount of work in terms of provision for mental health and wellbeing. Our dedicated team of mental health first aiders have made a monumental effort to offer support to our workforce, and more generally, staff have supported one another as each of them face their own challenges.  The nature of COVID means all my staff have at some point been affected by the pandemic and the psychological impact of this strange new way of life cannot be underestimated.

In terms of complaints, my office has tried to remain sensitive to the pressures put on public bodies in Wales and have at times temporarily suspended live complaints on bodies under particular strain. However, it is important my office still offers its core service and deliver justice to public service users across Wales.

Exciting new areas of work have continued to develop despite obvious obstacles. Our newly formed Complaints Standards Authority published its principles and will actively monitor and publish complaints data for public bodies. This should help shine a spotlight on issues of public service delivery and for the first time ever, provide comparable complaints data.

CSA staff have now delivered more than 50 training sessions for public body staff with more scheduled for 2021.

In September, I was delighted to receive the backing of Michael Sheen for our consultation of an own initiative investigation into homelessness in Wales and this work will advance next year.

And ofcourse, we have continued to be accountable with positive scrutiny sessions with both the Senedd Finance Committee and the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

I can only hope 2021 is a better year for all of us and the vaccine is the beginning of the end for this dreadful virus. Onwards!

Nick Bennett