The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

The office of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales was established in April 2006 by the PSOW Act 2005.  This Act was amended in 2019 to become the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) 2019 Act (“The 2019 Act”).  The appointment of ‘Ombudsman’ is made by the Crown and the current Ombudsman, Michelle Morris has been in post since April 2022.

The role of the PSOW is to:

  • look into complaints that something has gone wrong with Welsh public services;
  • look into complaints that Welsh councillors have breached their Code of Conduct; and
  • work with public bodies to improve public services and standards of conduct within local government across Wales.

All investigations are independent and undertaken in private.  Investigators look to see if a public body has acted properly and been fair in its treatment and where things have gone wrong, recommendations are made to put things right.

The 2019 Act granted the Ombudsman additional powers to investigate where there might be systemic service failures, even without a complaint having been received.  These are called ‘Own initiative’ investigations and may be undertaken if our criteria is met and it is in the public interest.

The Complaints Standards Authority (CSA) was also created under The 2019 Act and its aim is to drive improvement in public services.  The CSA’s task is to work with Public Bodies within its jurisdiction to:

  • support effective complaint handling
  • collect and publish data
  • deliver bespoke training packages

Michelle Morris, Ombudsman

I was delighted to take up the role of Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in April 2022.

Before becoming Ombudsman I worked in community development and local government for nearly 35 years in corporate and leadership roles.  This included holding a number of senior local government roles, in Wales and Scotland, as Assistant, Deputy and then Chief Executive.

I am currently part of the Public Services Ombudsman Group, working collaboratively with Ombudsman across the UK.

I am originally from Pembrokeshire and recently returned to the County to live. After attending local schools I studied at Cardiff University, Cranfield Institute and the University of Glamorgan and have an MSc. in Marketing and an MBA.

The work that we do at PSOW is an important part of the Welsh Public Sector and provides an independent and impartial service to consider failures in service delivery and allegations of breaches of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct. We help thousands of people every year and make an important contribution to improving public services.

Michelle Morris, Ombudsman

Chris Vinestock, Chief Operating Officer & Director of Improvement

Chris was appointed Chief Operating Officer in 2014. With a degree in economics and finance, and an MBA from Cardiff University, Chris is a qualified accountant.

Before joining the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales he worked for Cardiff and Swansea Councils in a number of senior roles covering accountancy, audit, engineering, highways and transportation.

Prior to his appointment he was Head of Service for Highways & Transportation in Swansea. Chris chaired the Human Resources Group of the Ombudsman Association and has worked closely with the Association to develop service standards for Ombudsman schemes across the UK.

Photo of Chris Vinestock

Katrin Shaw, Chief Legal Adviser & Director of Investigations

Katrin was brought up in Cardigan in West Wales, attended Sheffield Hallam University where she gained a BA in law. She was admitted as a Solicitor in 1996 and worked as a local government lawyer before she joined the Ombudsman’s office as an Investigator in 2001. Since then, Katrin has held managerial roles in the office and is now the PSOW’s Chief Legal Adviser & Director of Investigations.

Katrin was Chair of the Ombudsman Association’s Legal Interest Group from 2016 until 2019 and is a member of the UK’s Administrative Justice Council.

She was appointed as Acting Standards Commissioner by the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards in October 2020 and volunteers for Neath Port Talbot Age Connects.

Katrin Shaw

Management Team Members

Claire is Head of Service Improvement. In two decades at PSOW, Claire has held a number of management roles. The Public Service Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2019 introduced more opportunities for the organisation to influence improvement in Welsh public services and Claire has led on this work since 2018. Prior to joining PSOW, Claire’s background was in local government and management.

Andrew joined the organisation in October 2017 following his graduation from Cardiff Business School.  Whilst at PSOW Andrew has worked towards his ACCA qualification, achieving the highest mark in Wales in 2019, and qualifying as a chartered accountant in 2020.  Andrew secured the role of Finance Manager in August 2023.

Marilyn has extensive experience of the public sector having worked for five Welsh Councils.  She also has extensive experience of the private and third sector.  A Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, Marilyn has worked in HR and Training for all of her career which spans 40 years.  She joined PSOW in January 2021 when the new role of HRBP was established.

Jenny has worked for PSOW since 2006, starting originally as an investigator. She became a Team Manager before taking on the new role of Head of Public Services Complaints in 2022 with oversight of all of the complaints PSOW receives about public services in Wales.  Before joining PSOW, Jenny worked in NHS Wales as a Complaints Manager with responsibility for complaints about primary care, and before that as an internal auditor for HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

Advisory Panel and Audit and Risk Assurance Committee

The Advisory Panel is a non‑statutory forum whose main role is to support the Ombudsman in providing leadership and good governance of the office.

The Advisory Panel provides specific advice and support to the Ombudsman on:

  • vision, values and purposes;
  • strategic direction and planning; and
  • operational performance, accountability & delivery.

The Advisory Panel also brings an external perspective to assist in the development of policy and practice.

The Advisory Panel is an advisory only body, and does not make decisions in its own right.

The Audit and Risk Assurance Committee supports the Ombudsman by reviewing the comprehensiveness and reliability of assurances on governance, risk management, the control environment and the integrity of financial statements and the annual report.

Advisory Panel and Audit and Risk Assurance Committee Members

Advisory Panel Member

Bernie is a TEDx Speaker, Bestselling Author, Diversity and Entrepreneurship Leader, with a previous legal career in property. She is Past Chair of the Neath Chamber of Trade, Board member for Black History Wales and Fio Arts Charity, Ambassador for the Commonwealth Entrepreneurs Club, Business Wales and Equal Power Equal Voice Mentor, Welsh Government Excelerator Coach and Founder of Bernie Davies Global. Bernie supports entrepreneurship programmes with a focus on diversity, for major banks, universities and government agencies. On United Nations Human Rights Day, 2022, Bernie was awarded the prestigious title of Ambassador for Peace by the Universal Peace Federation for her work in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Bernie has been and continues to be a regular BBC Radio Wales contributor and BBC and ITV media expert.

Bernie Davies - Declaration of Interests

Advisory Panel Member 

Carys was Head of Insight and Data at S4C until 2019, utilising a range of qualitative and quantitative techniques to analyse audience trends and changing needs.  She has also worked in the past for WJEC, ITV Wales and the Welsh Language Commissioner.

Carys has served as a Board Member for Wales Consumer Council from 2000 to 2008 and for Audiences Wales between 2006 and 2015.

Carys Evans - Declaration of Interests

Advisory Panel Member / Audit & Risk Assurance Committee Member

Dr Jane Martin joined the Advisory Board of PSOW in September 2019. Until January 2017 she was Local Government Ombudsman and Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England. She was the first Executive Director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny. Now a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and a non-executive member of the Board of the Office for Legal Complaints for England and Wales, she was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2017 for services to administrative justice and transparency in local government.

Jane Martin - Declaration of Interests

Audit & Risk Assurance Committee Member

John worked for the Admiral Group Limited for 27 years in a variety of roles including leading Motor Claims departments and handling catastrophic bodily injury claims.  He has represented Admiral on external committees such as the MIB technical committee and ABI property claims committee. He was Head of Household claims and Claims Ancillary products until leaving in March 2019. John holds a BSc (Open) degree including Business Management, Personal Finance and Economics and is an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute (ACII) and a member of the CII’s Swansea Council. He is currently Operations Manager for Avantia Home Protect.

John McSherry - Declaration of Interests

Advisory Panel Member

Sue has worked in the voluntary sector in England and Wales for over 40 years. Moving to Wales in 1986, she worked at Mencap before taking time out to raise two daughters. Sue began work with the Alzheimer’s Society in 1995 as an administrator following the death of her grandfather who had Alzheimer’s disease and held a number of service development, management and leadership roles before becoming Country Director for Wales in September 2017. Working alongside people affected by dementia, with their voice at the heart, she campaigned for and championed the rights of everyone with dementia and those who care for them, promoting the need for investment in research to give hope for the future. Sue was delighted to be awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2017 for services to dementia in Wales. Keen on sport, Sue has been an Independent Director on the Cricket Wales Board since 2018 and serves as Chair of the EDI Sub-Committee and a member of the Finance Sub-Committee.

Sue Phelps - Declaration of Interests

Advisory Panel Member

Nia has worked in several roles across the public and private sector, most recently as Head of Research and Innovation Engagement at the Welsh Government. She is a European Patent Attorney, a Chartered Physicist and a Member of the Institute of Physics. Originally from Anglesey, Nia is a Welsh speaker and lives in Llandudno, North Wales. Nia has served in a number of non-executive roles including as a member of the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council Strategic Advisory Network, a member of the Institute of Physics Wales Committee and previously as a Chair of Governors of a primary school.

Nia Roberts - Declaration of Interests

Audit & Risk Assurance Committee Member

Dave was Director of Resources for the Senedd Commission until he retired in January 2022. Dave spent 10 years at the Senedd and prior to this he has worked in

Local Government, the Aerospace Industry and served for 12 years as a Commissioned Officer in the Royal Air Force. Dave’s professional background is in ICT. Since retirement, Dave has taken up a part-time role as a leadership training and development consultant. Dave also sits as a Magistrate.

Dave Tosh - Declaration of Interests

Advisory Panel Member / Audit & Risk Assurance Committee Member

Mike Usher retired in 2020 from Audit Wales, where he was a member of the Executive Leadership Team and the strategic lead for the Auditor General’s financial and value for money external audit work across central government and NHS Wales. He was also the Director of Investigative Studies, responsible for examining concerns about public services raised by Senedd members, MPs and the public. Prior to joining Audit Wales on its creation in 2005, Mike was a Director of Audit at the National Audit Office, based in Cardiff.

Mike is an experienced management consultant and non-executive director with particular expertise in corporate governance, risk management, financial strategy and the proper conduct of public business. He previously served as a Trustee of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, where he also chaired the Audit Committee. Mike is currently a Board member of Newport City Homes, and also sits as a non-executive Director on the Board of the Welsh Government.

Mike Usher - Declaration of Interests

Audit & Risk Assurance Committee Member

A graduate of UCW Aberystwyth, Joanest was admitted as a solicitor in 1982.  Originally from Pembrokeshire, a somewhat nomadic lifestyle followed from a career in the legal departments of various local authorities in Wales and England.  In 1992 she returned to Wales from the London Borough of Harrow.  In 2000 Joanest joined the newly established National Assembly for Wales working primarily in legislative drafting and scrutiny until retiring in 2017.

Joanest Varney-Jackson - Declaration of Interests

Advisory Panel Member / Audit & Risk Assurance Committee Member

Ian was the Group Chief Executive of Hendre until he retired in July 2017. Ian is a Chartered Surveyor and a Fellow of the Institute of Housing. He worked for almost 40 years in the Housing Association movement in South Wales and developed Hendre into one of the largest traditional housing associations in Wales providing Housing Care and support to around 20,000 people, employing over 1,250 staff.

Ian has served in numerous non-executive roles including Chair of Community Housing Cymru and Chair of the Welsh Housing Partnership.

Ian Williams - Declaration of Interests