Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Parliamentary Ombudsman.

We in Wales are somewhat fortunate that we have our own Public Service Ombudsman with an user friendly web site and idiot proof instructions and you can submit your complaint electronically; pretty simple all things considered.

Imagine my horror when I was asked by a constituent to assist in making a complaint of maladministration against HM Courts and Tribunals Service (I'll get on to the maladministration later). Several Google searches later I arrived at the web pages of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and following a few more hoops I got to the complaint form...looked for the electronic version and found nothing. There were only 2 ways of making a complaint, printing a form off in PDF or printing off a form in Word. The next hoop was printed on the front page of the complaint form, "Once you have completed this complaint form, it must be signed by a Member of Parliament who will send it to the Parliamentary Ombudsman."

Basically the Ombudsman WILL NOT even look at a complaint unless your local MP requests it, now what sort of right to have a grievance heard is that? Whatever you say about our fledgling democracy in Wales its a damn sight nearer to the people with a right to take their grievances straight to the ombudsman without some sort of flawed filtering or intervention.

Now to get back to the maladministration and it is a cracker. The Courts and Tribunals Service hear appeals from those people who have been unfortunate enough to go up against the the Department of Work and Pensions medical assessment and who inevitably have lost out as a result of that traumatic experience. It is not however the end of the road for people, there are two appeals with the last appeal to the Upper Tribunal of the service. When my constituent wanted to appeal to the Upper Tribunal in Cardiff the papers were sent in a pre-paid HM Courts and Tribunal Service envelope at the beginning of February 2012, only to be returned unopened to her at the end of April 2012, because the Post office had refused to deliver it because insufficient postage had been paid. A complaint to the Tribunals Service did elicit a low level begrudging apology  and a promise the appeal would be lodged with the Upper Tribunal. Personally I don't think that is good enough, peoples' lives are being severly affected by the flawed decision of Medical Assessments and the minimum we should expect is that the appeals process is properly administered.

We shall wait and see whether our esteemed Member of Parliament will support the complaints and ask the Ombudsman to investigate.

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