Who is the Ombudsman and what does she do?
Emily O’Reilly is the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman can examine complaints about everyday administrative activities carried out by a wide range of public bodies. These include complaints about delays or failing to take action. She can also examine complaints about access by people with disabilities to public buildings, services and information.
What is the law on access to public services for people with disabilities?
The Disability Act 2005 imposes significant obligations on Government departments and public bodies to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. The Act gives the Ombudsman new powers to investigate complaints about compliance by public bodies and others with Part 3 of the Act. This Part deals with accessibility of public buildings, services and information.
The Ombudsman has no role in relation to other Parts of the Disability Act 2005 such as:
- assessment of needs (Part 2) or
- public service employment (Part 5).
The Disability Act contains separate directions on how to manage these complaints.
The Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 outlaw discrimination by public and private sector organisations when providing goods and services to which the public generally have access. The Acts outlaw discrimination on nine distinct grounds, one of which is disability. You can get more information about the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 from the Equality Authority (www.equality.ie). The Ombudsman has no role in relation to the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004.
Is the Ombudsman independent?
Yes. The Ombudsman deals with all complaints independently and impartially.
What is Part 3 of the Disability Act 2005?
Part 3 of the Disability Act 2005 deals with:
- access to public buildings (section 25)
- access to services (section 26)
- accessibility of services supplied to a public body (section 27)
- access to information (section 28)
- access to heritage sites (section 29) and
- ‘sectoral plans’ (sections 32 to 37).
What are sectoral plans?
Six Government ministers are required to prepare sectoral plans. These outline what the ministers plan to do to ensure that services are provided to people with specified disabilities. They cover the role of public bodies or other people supported or funded by the minister.
Areas covered by sectoral plans include:
- public transport
- health services
- vocational training
- employment support services
- housing and
The following Government ministers are required to prepare sectoral plans:
- Minister for Health and Children
- Minister for Social and Family Affairs
- Minister for Transport
- Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
- Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and
- Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Which public bodies are covered by Part 3 of the Disability Act 2005?
Generally, the Act covers:
- Government departments (for example the Department of Transport)
- local authorities (for example the county councils)
- the Health Service Executive
- semi-state bodies (for example FÁS, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Health and Safety Authority) and
- most other state organisations.
If you are unsure whether a particular body is covered by the Act, please contact us.
Making a Complaint to the Ombudsman
When should I complain to the Ombudsman?
Before you complain to the Ombudsman you must first put your case to the public body concerned and allow it time to investigate the matter.
- If you want to complain about accessibility, you must complain directly to the public body concerned. An inquiry officer appointed by the public body will investigate your complaint and decide if the body is complying with the relevant part of the Act.
- If you want to complain about the requirements in a sectoral plan, you must use the complaints procedures set out in the relevant plan. A complaints officer appointed under the plan will consider this type of complaint and decide if the public body or other person is complying with the requirements in the sectoral plan.
If you fail to resolve your complaint with the public body directly, you can ask the Ombudsman to investigate the matter.
Who can make a complaint to the Ombudsman?
Anyone, including public representatives, companies or organisations, can complain to the Ombudsman. However, only people specified in the Disability Act 2005 may complain to the public body concerned (for example the person with a disability or their spouse, parent, legal representative or personal advocate).
What can the Ombudsman do?
Once we establish that we can examine your complaint, we will ask the public body or other person to send us a report. If necessary, the Ombudsman may also examine the files and records and may question people involved with the complaint. It can take time to gather the information that we need.
Following the Ombudsman’s investigation of a complaint, she may conclude that a public body or other person has failed to comply with a provision of Part 3 of the Disability Act 2005 or a sectoral plan. She may decide this failure has adversely affected the person making the complaint (or on whose behalf the complaint was made) or any other person. If she does, she may recommend that the public body or other person (in the case of a sectoral plan):
- further considers the matter that led to the complaint
- takes action to remedy the complaint
- reduces or changes the action that led to the complaint or
- tells her why it took the action.
If the Ombudsman thinks it is appropriate, she may ask the head of the public body or other person (in the case of a sectoral plan) to let her know their response to her recommendation.
How long will it take for the Ombudsman to investigate a complaint?
The time taken to reach a decision will vary from case to case. For example, it can take time if the Ombudsman needs to get more information or meet officials from the organisation. We will always try to keep you informed of what is happening.
What will it cost?
Nothing - there is no charge for the services of the Ombudsman.
How do I complain to the Ombudsman?
You can write or call to:
The Office of the Ombudsman
18 Lower Leeson Street
Phone: LoCall 1890 22 30 30
Fax: 01 639 5674
Can someone else complain on my behalf to the Ombudsman?
Yes, but only if you give them permission to do so. If you want to complain on behalf of someone else, you must get their permission first.
If you have a disability and need help to use the services of the Ombudsman, contact us to arrange to speak to our Access Officer.