Several firsts for the Victorian Ombudsman reap rewards for the community in 2022-23Date posted:
A new conciliation function that has resolved well over 90 per cent of conciliated complaints, and the first joint investigation with IBAC. These are two new approaches detailed in the Victorian Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2022-23.
Tabling her final Annual Report in Parliament today, Ombudsman Deborah Glass reflects on some of the changes that have occurred during nearly 10 years as Ombudsman.
“My 2014 report described some of my early observations and plans for the role, including the evolution of the Ombudsman’s office in light of the then-new Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission. I commented that the introduction of IBAC allowed me to refocus the work of the office in line with its Swedish origins – the ‘defender of the people’ – to make it clearer that corruption was IBAC’s business and fairness was mine.
“Nearly 10 years later the lines are more blurred. Corruption is certainly IBAC’s business and fairness is still at the heart of my vision for the office. But the boundaries between the two are not clearcut” Ms Glass said.
The Ombudsman continued to help facilitate 7,000 actions agreed by agencies to resolve complaints without a formal investigation – very often, by simply providing the service sought, or otherwise fixing the problem.
Prisons were the most complained about agency, up 18 per cent, followed by councils up 1.4 percent on last year - financial hardship driving much of the increase in council complaints. Housing complaints also rose; the Ombudsman’s Investigation into complaint handling in the Victorian social housing sector tabled in July 2022, highlighted many of the problems faced by residents.
“Complaints about social housing are rising; and are increasingly coming to us via Community Legal Centres. While I am pleased to see our CLC partnerships bearing fruit, it should not take the repeated nudge of the Ombudsman’s elbow to deliver outcomes for some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.” Ms Glass said.
Acceptance of recommendations is down this year from 95 per cent to 83.7 per cent, primarily the result of the government not responding to eight recommendations in the social housing complaint handling report.
“These recommendations, developed in close collaboration with the sector, including advocacy groups, would deliver real change at a minimal cost, in an area that has been neglected for too long.” Ms Glass said.
The office is reaching more people than ever in part due to technology improvements and through the increasingly popular workshops and training, with over 1,000 people enrolling in 2022-23.
Human rights continue to be a theme at the office with 2,722 complaints about human rights breaches this financial year. Most complaints were resolved without formal investigations being required.
“The cases in this report illustrate how human rights are relevant for everyone, not only in our prisons.” Ms Glass said.
Ms Glass ends her ten-year term as Victorian Ombudsman on 29 March 2024.