By Tony O’Riley
A three-way meeting between the Ministry of Justice, the Legal Services Board and the Office for Legal Complaints is scheduled took place yesterday to discuss alternative redress structures, following serious concerns about the legal ombudsman.
It follows multiple complaints about the legal ombudsman in dealing with complaints in a timely manner, and also efficiently.
A representative from the LSB told The Eye Of Media.Com that it had received multiple complaints of delays by the legal ombudman in dealing with complaints and that serious steps needed to be taken to address the problem and restore faith in the system or replace it altogether.
LSB chief executive Matthew Hill, writing in his progress report to the board this week, said: ‘As outlined in the sector-wide strategy, our hope remains that under its much-strengthened leadership the Legal Ombudsman’s performance will recover on a sustainable basis, but it is prudent to consider alternatives on a parallel planning basis.’
The LSB board is to conduct a review next month on the ombudsman’s efforts to improve performance, with a draft budget application due to be considered in November.
Complainants said their cases had been being held up for up to 14 months before even being opened. Documents published in July revealed that the number of outstanding cases had almost doubled in a year to 4,829 by the end of March 2021. The ombudsman closed significantly fewer cases during 2020/21, down from 6,343 to 4,829.
A meeting is scheduled to take place to discuss alternative redress structures to the Legal Ombudsman if it is later concluded that the current arrangements are not capable of being operated to satisfactory standards.
The Legal board expressed optimism that under its much-strengthened leadership the Legal Ombudsman’s performance will recover on a sustainable basis, but it is prudent to consider alternatives on a parallel planning basis. Greater scrutiny is now under way, but the LSB has not fully concluded its decision.
The ombudsman said it has committed to turning about performance and reducing the outstanding caseload. The new strategy includes offering complainants with a ‘good opportunity to reflect’ and assess if there is anything further they can do to resolve their issue.
The ombdsnam at all levels is expected to be trusted to handle complaints promptyl and efficiently. Where this fails, it destroys the public confidence in a system that is meant to be there to protect them and attend to their issues.