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Michelle’s foreword

I am proud to publish this Strategic Plan, setting out my ambition for the office over the next three years.

In developing this Plan, I have been acutely aware of the challenges facing the public sector, and this office in the new, post-pandemic Wales.

As the Ombudsman, I have the duty and the privilege to deliver justice for individuals who feel that public services or their elected local representatives have let them down.

Our caseload has increased during 2021/22 and we expect the number of complaints to continue to rise.  More complaints means more opportunities to deliver justice when things have gone wrong. However, with limited resources and capacity, it can also affect the quality of our service and limit our ability to drive more systemic improvement. Our challenge is how to manage that caseload in a way that does not compromise our service and delivers best outcomes for people who have suffered injustice.

We are confident that the standard of our decision making is very good. However, we know that our service users want us to listen more and be easier to reach. Many may also feel vulnerable or at a disadvantage when complaining against a service provider. Although we must remain independent and impartial, and we cannot always deliver the outcome that people seek from us, we know that a supportive approach and empathy must be at the heart of our service.

We are equipped with powerful tools to improve public services in Wales, especially for people who face barriers in complaining. We can initiate our own investigations on significant issues. We can also set complaint handling standards for bodies in our jurisdiction and monitor how they implement these standards. Over the coming years, we need to expand how we use these tools to have even more impact.

This Plan identifies four Strategic Aims to address these and other challenges and opportunities. If we are to have a meaningful and lasting impact in the new post-pandemic world, business as usual is not an option. Like all public sector organisations in Wales, we must adjust how we operate – adopt new ways of working and try new solutions.

We need to wisely invest in our staff, offering the right support and reaping the benefits of agile working. We must also continue to improve the security and resilience of our systems, and contribute to tackling the climate crisis. Finally, we need to always deliver value for money in a difficult economic situation and so be ambitious but also realistic about the resources and capacity available to us.

We cannot do this alone. This Plan draws on the valued feedback we have had from our staff, service users and public bodies. We will continue to engage closely with them to work towards our ambition for the office over the next three years.

I am grateful to all who contributed to developing this Plan and look with hope and excitement to the future, as we embark on this new chapter in our service to the people of Wales.


 

Our role

We have three main roles.

  • We investigate complaints about public services.
  • We consider complaints about councillors breaching the Code of Conduct.
  • We drive systemic improvement of public services and standards of conduct in local government in Wales.

 

Our ambition
  • People of Wales feel that public services treat them fairly and respond when things go wrong.
  • Welsh public services listen to individuals and use their complaints to learn and improve.
  • Welsh local government is trusted to deliver the highest standards of conduct.
  • The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales continues to be an influential and respected voice in public service improvement.

 

Our principles

We are independent, impartial, fair and open to all who need us.


 

Our Strategic Aims

The challenges that we face are different to those in the past – and we need to tackle them differently. Our actions under the Strategic Aims emphasise how together with our staff we will innovate and explore new ways of working to deliver our ambitions.


 

Strategic Aim 1: Delivering justice with a positive impact for people and public services

We deliver an efficient, empathetic and proportionate service that supports justice and improves public services.

 

What will we do? Explore new digital tools and processes to help us manage our increasing complaints caseload and sustain performance.

Further enhance the quality of our service delivery, in line with our Service Standards and service user feedback.

Improve how we manage the expectations of our complainants throughout the complaint handling process, emphasising our duty to deliver a responsive and proportionate service.

Ensure our recommendations to public bodies are delivered and provide redress to individuals when things go wrong.

Ensure that our recommendations deliver systemic improvement of public services in Wales.

 


Strategic Aim 2: Increasing accessibility and inclusion

People across Wales are aware of our office, understand how we can help them and our service is relevant and accessible.

 

What will we do? Develop a new and more accessible website, structured around the needs of our service users.

Transform our relationship with advice and advocacy bodies supporting our service users through a programme of outreach and engagement.

Launch an ambitious communications and outreach campaign, supported by more accessible and visual information resources, to reach those communities that are least likely to complain to us.

Improve the quality of our communication, including by embedding the use of Plain English / Cymraeg Clîr across the organisation.

 


Strategic Aim 3: Expanding our proactive improvement work

We contribute to improvement in public services, through complaints standards work, wider learning from complaints and own initiative investigations and supporting high standards of conduct amongst councillors.

 

What will we do? Enhance the impact of our Complaints Standards work by bringing more public bodies under our model complaints policy, developing training on good complaint handling and highlighting learning from the data we collect to improve public services.

Launch more own initiative investigations, including with a focus on improving public services for service users under-represented among our complainants.

Support good standards of conduct by councillors in local government in Wales, and explore new ways and resources through which we can do so.

 


Strategic Aim 4: Ensuring that we are a healthy, efficient and accountable organisation

We maintain and improve efficient and effective use of our financial, staff, office and IT resources, and ensure good governance, accountability and transparency.  

 

What will we do? Improve our business processes and Casework Management Systems, to help our staff work more efficiently and effectively.

Develop our new model of agile working, engaging with staff to review our office needs and improve internal communications.

Develop and implement our People Strategy, to ensure that we maintain high performance and that staff feel valued and supported.

Implement a refreshed ICT Strategy to sustain and improve our ICT systems and ensure that we can continue to provide an efficient, secure and resilient service.

Play our part in protecting the environment, by further reducing our carbon footprint.

 

Making a difference

In all that we do, we aim to achieve three things: deliver justice for individuals, improve public services and support high standards of conduct in local government. We know that we are not the only organisation pursuing these goals, but we will work collaboratively and be ambitious and transparent in demonstrating the influence and impact of our work.


 

  How will we know we have made a difference? How will we measure this?
Strategic Aim 1: Delivering justice with a positive impact for people and public services People are more satisfied with our service.

People better understand our role and we receive fewer complaints that we cannot consider.

We are able to make decisions more quickly in a larger proportion of cases.

Our service users and public bodies in our jurisdiction think that our recommendations had positive impact.

 

Feedback from our service users, public bodies in our jurisdiction and our staff

Analysis of our complaint handling performance using KPIs

 

  How will we know we have made a difference? How will we measure this?
Strategic Aim 2: Increasing  accessibility and inclusion Awareness of the office is increasing.

More people engage with our website and resources and give us positive feedback about them.

Advice and advocacy bodies value the relationship with us and positively assess working with us.

The equality profile of people who complain to us is more diverse.

 

National awareness surveys

Website use analytics

Feedback from our service users and advice and advocacy bodies

Equality and diversity monitoring

 

  How will we know we have made a difference? How will we measure this?
Strategic Aim 3: Expanding our proactive improvement work People who use public services in Wales have better experiences of engaging with complaint processes.

Public bodies follow our Complaints Standards guidance and model process.

Our own initiative investigations make meaningful recommendations to address injustice and we have evidence of tangible improvements to public services as a result.

 

National survey

Analysis of our complaints trends

Analysis of our compliance evidence

Feedback from bodies in our jurisdiction

Feedback from service users and advocacy groups

  How will we know we have made a difference? How will we measure this?
Strategic Aim 4: Ensuring that we are a healthy, efficient and accountable organisation We are an agile workplace, using our facilities efficiently and offering the right support to our staff.

Our staff are motivated and high-performing.

The profile of our workforce is more diverse, better reflecting the communities that we serve.

Our systems are available, effective and secure.

We reduce our carbon footprint.

 

Feedback from our staff

Equality and diversity monitoring

Internal and external audits

Carbon footprint monitoring

 

Next steps

We will produce an annual Business Plan for each year of this Strategic Plan.  The Business Plan will include detailed actions to deliver our Strategic Aims and Key Performance Indicators to monitor our performance and measure how we have made a difference.