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The Ombudsman can conduct two types of own initiative investigation:

  • An extension to an existing investigation of a complaint brought by a member of the public: or
  • A stand-alone wider investigation which does not relate to a specific individual or complaint received

This factsheet explains how the Ombudsman can use his extended own initiative powers under Section 4 of the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2019.

Information about wider own initiative investigations can be found on the ‘Own Initiative Investigations’ page, under the ‘About Us’ tab.


What the Ombudsman can do

The Ombudsman’s criteria (available on the ‘Own Initiative Investigations’ page, under the ‘About Us’ tab) for extending an investigation says that, where the Ombudsman has already begun an investigation into a complaint and he wishes to begin an own initiative investigation into matters that have a substantial connection with the matter already being investigated, he will begin an extended investigation on his own initiative.

An extended investigation may be carried out where the Ombudsman has a reasonable suspicion that a complaint about:

  • One element of a service, and/or
  • One service provider

Is closely linked to:

  • Another possible incidence of systemic maladministration or service failure, and/or
  • Another related service provider


  • In a case involving the exercise of professional judgement in a health or social care case – that systemic injustice has been sustained as a result of that professional judgement
  • It must be in the public interest to begin an investigation

Matters which are likely to fall within the meaning of “systemic maladministration/service failure or systemic injustice” include:

  • a failure which does not appear to have occurred as a result of a “one-off” event or failure but rather, has occurred as a consequence of an apparent widespread failure in the public body’s systems, processes or procedures
  • a failure in a public body’s approach or procedure which could cause injustice to a number of people
  • an apparent widespread failure of approach or procedure which appears to be accepted or condoned by the public body

Matters which are likely to fall within the meaning of “public interest” include:

  • an issue of significant public interest or a known issue of current concern to the Ombudsman.
  • an issue which may relates to the abuse of power by a public body against an individual person
  • where the ‘vulnerability’ or particular circumstances of the complainant or group of complainants suggest that the Ombudsman’s intervention would be merited

The Ombudsman may wish to extend or take a live investigation in another associated direction where examination of records, professional advice received or other evidence available identifies concerns, beyond those in the complaint received, which meet the criteria.

Where the Ombudsman considers that an extended own initiative investigation is required the public body concerned and the complainant will be advised and will have the opportunity to comment and/or submit evidence as part of the investigation process.

When the Ombudsman has initiated an extended investigation, it will be managed in accordance with the Ombudsman’s existing complaints handling processes.

What the Ombudsman cannot do
  • Extend a complaint which is not under investigation
  • Extend an investigation to consider matters which would not meet the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction for investigation
  • Extend an investigation which does not meet the Ombudsman’s own initiative criteria


Issues to bear in mind

If an extended investigation relates to health services and the ‘Putting Things Right’ regulations are of relevance, the complainant will be given the opportunity to progress the matter under these regulations as an alternative, if they wish.


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