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No acton to reform "hostile" States complaints process this term

No acton to reform

Thursday 22 February 2024

No acton to reform "hostile" States complaints process this term

Thursday 22 February 2024


Any serious reform of heavily criticised States complaints processes will not happen for years.

The Assembly yesterday heard arguments that the current systems were inefficient, confusing and led to a defensive, hostile attitude, but in the end deputies decided it was not a priority to spend time on.

Instead, any investigation into whether to establish an independent ombudsperson instead will not happen until a planned review of finances in 2026.

Other options which included establishing an ombudsperson jointly with Jersey, creating a Guernsey-only one next term, and reviewing by November what costs could be saved as well as what the Isle of Man does, were all rejected.

Policy & Resources vice president Heidi Soulsby supported introducing an ombudsperson, but not at this stage.

“We're trying to be pragmatic and reach a compromise on this and find a way forward,” she said of the committee’s proposal to review things in 2026.

Deputy Soulsby warned that bringing in an ombudsperson was not a panacea and would not cut out all the frustrations of dealing with the States complaints.

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Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby.

Earlier in the debate she stressed that they did not have banks and banks of people to do the work.

Deputy Gavin St Pier was the most consistent voice in favour of action much sooner and has over the years moved from a position that the post was an unnecessary additional layer of bureaucracy - something others like Deputy Peter Ferbrache had argued in debate.

“What I've come to realise is that we, the States, the government, are just not very good, in fact, we are very bad at handling complaints,” said Deputy St Pier.

“We treat everybody as a litigation risk with financial exposure and that makes us defensive and hostile to the complainant. The reality is that most, I would say nine out of 10 complaints, just want to be heard. They want an acknowledgement that something went wrong. They want lessons to be learned so that others don't have to go through whatever it is that they've been through.”

The fear of litigation was massively overblown, he said, and drives the wrong culture and response.

“We seem to be careless in our disregard for the fact that our failure to handle complaints properly compounds the individual's trauma from the maladministration or other poor service that they have experienced.”

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