Critics of the ombudsman system: Understanding and engaging online citizen activists
Dr Naomi Creutzfeldt has partnered with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to understand the concerns, goals and operations of ombudsman watcher groups and how ombudsman schemes are responding to scrutiny from ombudsman watchers.
For the past fifty years, Ombudsmen schemes have given consumers free, accessible and informal methods to resolve disputes with public bodies or businesses, but little attention has been paid to how the schemes themselves are experienced by consumers.
Recently individuals who have had negative experiences with ombudsman schemes have united to form activist groups, organising online protests to highlight their concerns about the operation of ombudsman schemes and to campaign for change. Such activism has the potential to damage the reputation of ombudsman schemes, and to limit future use by the public.
Dr Naomi Creutzfeldt has partnered with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) to understand the concerns, goals and operations of ombudsman watcher groups and to understand how ombudsman schemes are responding to scrutiny from ombudsman watchers.
The project team has brought together both sides individually in a series of parallel workshops. The workshops with the ombudsmen watchers examined the nature and scope of the ombudsmen watcher phenomenon, the watchers’ concerns about the schemes as well as their goals and methods. The workshops with the ombudsmen schemes looked at how the schemes have responded to criticisms raised by watcher groups, and how these criticisms have fed into scheme policy.
Following discussions with all sides, Dr Creutzfeldt produced a policy brief summarising the issues and making recommendations for future dialogues. In this way, Dr Creutzfeldt and her team hope to benefit citizens of the UK by suggesting how ombudsman schemes can better respond to user feedback and improve the consumer experience.
This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.