Ombudsmen and ADR: A Comparative Study of Informal Justice in Europe
This is a new publication by Naomi Creutzfeldt. The link takes you to a review of the work by Nick O’Brien on the UKAJI website. It’s well worth a read for ombudsman watchers. Take a look at the section on “typical british and typical german complainants” on page one of the review.
At the core of the argument is comparative empirical research on attitudes to law and ADR in Germany and the UK. A ‘typical German’, we are told, grows up ‘amongst many rules and endless efficiency’, and views basic rights as a ‘system of values’ or ‘objective norms’ which ‘radiate throughout the whole legal system’. Moreover, the German legal system actually works: it is efficient, accessible and predictable. As a result, the German relationship to authority is defined by ‘legality and order’, and when Germans complain, even to an ombud, they use ‘very legalistic terms’. The German ombuds in turn, ‘typically’ ex-judges with a staff of lawyers, respond in kind, since they have been ‘set up in line with the German national legal culture, which is heavily focused on rights, hierarchy and authority’. In many ways ‘the ombudsman (sic) replicates the formal justice system’.
In Britain, things are rather different. According to Creutzfeldt, a ‘typical British’ complainant grows up ‘without a set of values enshrined in a constitution’ and without the benefit of ‘codifying values in law’. Instead, ‘legal patriotism’ in Britain ‘coheres around parliamentary sovereignty and the piecemeal development of common law’. The average British citizen therefore ‘grew up amongst people who tend to grumble about the state of things’ but are less inclined to convert those grumbles into purposeful action. They will, however, have ‘strong attachment to the local’, distrust central government and politicians, and retain high expectations, ‘even a feeling of entitlement’, towards public services.
By contrast with Germany, the courts in Britain do not work very well at all: Creutzfeldt says they are ‘overrun’ and have ‘unpredictable outcomes, duration and costs’. As a result, they are not seen as ‘an efficient dispute resolution model for consumer complaints’. The ombud in the UK, as a result, far from emulating them, is ‘set up as a counter-balance to the formality and inaccessibility of the courts’ and so provides ‘a less formal and less legalistic process’ than its German counterparts: ‘in the UK national system, the architecture of the less legalistic approach to ADR is designed to enhance legitimacy, trust and acceptance’.
Freedom of Information requests
This link points to the “What do they know” website which allows anyone to easily ask an FOI question and force FOS to reply in public. Of course FOS do have their own website page on making an FOI request if you don’t want to use “What do they know”.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman watcher (PHSOthefacts.com)
Want to know what really happens when you complain to the PHSO about the NHS ? Take a look at this excellent site.
Ombudsman Watchers (watches Public Service and Local Government Ombudsmen)
No longer an active website, but still well worth checking as a valuable resource
Open democracy website
The Ombudsman service (the FOS) is financed by the finance industry. Why do so many people seem to regard its operations with contempt? A critical view of FOS with some good quotes !
FOS decisions published
The Financial Ombudsman publishes many of its decisions at this website. But only Ombudsman decisions (not adjudicator’s determinations) are published. Since 80% of all FOS cases are settled by adjudicators, the website is not typical of FOS decisions.
An initial commentary on the draft public services ombuds bill
On 5 December 2016, the Cabinet Office published the draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill, setting out its proposals for bringing together the responsibilities of the current Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman to create a new organisation with strengthened governance and accountability for complaints about public services in England.