"At the publication of her Annual Report, Ms O'Reilly said her Office continued to receive high numbers of complaints in 2012. While there had been a small drop in numbers, from a record 3,727 in 2010 to 3,412 in 2012, the number was still significantly higher than the ten-year average of 2,774."

"The largest number of complaints received involved the Department of Social Protection. Complaints in relation to Local Authorities represented just under a third of complaints and a fifth were in respect of the Health Service Executive (HSE). 11,178 enquiries were dealt with by the Ombudsman's office in 2012."

In times of austerity, Ombudsmen face moral dilemmas in their work. If they highlight illegalities and inequitable treatment of citizens, they risk public services taking the easy option and abolishing the entire scheme, grant etc. for everyone. Twice in the last year I have faced this dilemma, and on both occasions, my worst fears were proven correct.

However, the job of Ombudsman continues to be to identify illegalities, inequities and unfairness. The job of public services is to listen when an Ombudsman points to an injustice and to act quickly to find effective ways of resolving the problem, not to bury their heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away.

Link to press release

Link to Annual Report 2012 . Chapter 4 provides details of case studies that give us an insight into the types of complaints the Ombudsman investigates.