A total of 58 complaints (1.45%) were made against Westmeath utilities to the Ombudsman in 2021.
In Roscommon, 48 complaints (1.20%) were made about various public services provided by government departments, local authorities and the HSE.
There was a 45% increase in complaints against local authorities last year. The Ombudsman received a record 4,004 complaints in 2021, an increase of 17% compared to the previous year.
Speaking at the release of the annual report for 2021 recently, ombudsman Ger Deering said complaints against local authorities accounted for the largest proportion of the increase, with 1,290 complaints, a 45% increase on compared to 2020. Complaints mainly related to housing and urban planning issues.
There was a 26% increase in complaints about the health sector (up to 796) which includes the HSE, public hospitals and Tusla. 325 complaints related to HSE services, including 105 complaints relating to primary and community care, and 56 relating to overseas treatment and cross-border directive programmes. Tusla has been the subject of 118 complaints to the Ombudsman.
Complaints against government departments and offices decreased by 12% compared to 2020 (1,066). The highest number of complaints concerned the Department of Social Care (579), but this was down from 735 in 2020.
The past year has seen a decrease in complaints received against the Department of Social Welfare. The majority of complaints related to payments available from the Department. 65 complaints were received regarding Disability Allowance, 62 complaints regarding Jobseeker’s Allowance and 58 complaints regarding Covid-related payments.
There has been a noticeable increase in complaints against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which corresponds to difficulties with the first passport applications. Complaints against regulators and private care homes have increased by more than 50%. Claims against organizations in the Direct Delivery sector also increased by almost 50%.
The Ombudsman criticized the passport service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There was a significant increase in complaints about the Department to the Ombudsman in 2021, the bulk of which related to delays in processing first passport applications. The Ombudsman said he understood the Passport Service had come under pressure due to the pandemic and increased demands following Brexit. However, he said such delays were not acceptable and the 2021 experience should not be repeated.
The Office of the Ombudsman handled 3,961 complaints in 2021 (a 13% increase compared to 2020) and responded to 6,125 requests, an increase of 65% compared to 2020. However, 75% of complaints were examined in three months or less.
The Ombudsman’s annual report for 2021 is available at ombudsman.ie/publications/annual-reports