An ombudsman acts as a mediator between a private body and an internal or external party, while representing the wide-ranging scope of constituent interests.

An ombudsman is an official generally appointed by the government or by parliament but may sometimes be elected by the constituency. In some areas, an ombudsman responsible with the dealing of national government matters is known as the Parliamentary Commissioner.

The word Ombudsman, is Nordic. It comes from the Norse word umboðsmaðr, meaning ‘representative’. An ombudsman is an official, who is responsible for “representing the interests of the public, by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individual citizens.”

In the UK, the post of Ombudsman is affiliated with Parliament and additional posts. These additional posts are situated at the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and other government institutions.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration Offices

The offices for the ‘Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration’ were opened in 1967. It was responsible for the activities of central government departments.

National Health Service

A ‘National Health Service’ ombudsman was subsequently created; the two offices are known as the ‘Parliamentary’ and ‘Health Service Ombudsman’.

Ombudsmen investigate complaints referred by MPs (Members of Parliament).

Complaints to the Ombudsman are subject to a “time bar” — a deadline or time limit.

The Ombudsman may determine a complaint to be “out of jurisdiction” if too much time has passed between the event or course of events being queried and the complaint being received by the Ombudsman.

Making a complaint to an ombudsman office is usually free of financial charge.

Local Government Ombudsman

The Local Government Ombudsman (formally the Commission for Local Government Administration) for England and Wales was created in 1973, with a similar office set up in Scotland in 1974.

Key facts about Ombudsmen Services

There are three Local Government Ombudsmen in England, and they make their decisions independently of all government departments, councils and politicians.

The ombudsman office examines complaints impartially and is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen with the same powers as the High Court to obtain information and documents.

Ombudsman decisions are final and cannot be appealed. An ombudsman does not have to investigate every complaint received, though it does have the power to do so. For example, they may decide not to investigate if they think the problem raised would have minimal effect if unresolved.

Ombudsman service is not charged and often makes council recommendations which are almost always recognised and acted on.

Official ombudsman services in the U.K

  • Energywatch
  • Financial Ombudsman Service: provides consumers and small businesses with a free, independent service for resolving disputes with Banks, Insurance and other financial organisations (includes private medical insurance)
  • Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme for the Isle of Man
  • Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS): An independent service dealing with complaints against landlords & agents, and other housing disputes
  • Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman
  • Legal Services Ombudsman
  • Office of the Telecommunications Ombudsman (Otelo): an ombudsman service for public communication providers and their customers
  • Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  • Pensions Ombudsman investigates and decides complaints and disputes about private, civil service and other public sector pensions and pension schemes
  • Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
  • Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
  • Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman
  • Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
  • Estate Agents Ombudsman
  • Financial Ombudsman Service
  • Furniture Ombudsman
  • Removals Industry Ombudsman Scheme
  • Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman (DGCOS)

Industry and organizational ombudsmen

The Financial Ombudsman Service was established (by law) as an independent public body.

The service was set up to help resolve disputes between businesses providing financial services and consumers “fairly, reasonably, quickly and informally.”