There were 75 complaints made to the Ombudsman in 2023 about the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

That’s according to the Ombudsman Annual Report 2023, which has been published today (Wednesday, June 12).

There was a total of 1,175 complains received about government departments and offices in 2023, with the Department of Social Protection the focus of the majority of complaints.

This was followed by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Revenue Commissioners, DAFM and the Department of Justice.

However, complaints about such departments and offices were down by 36% compared to the previous year.

Ombudsman Annual Report

The report indicates that the reduction in complaints about government departments and offices was contributed to by a significant fall-off in complaints about the Passport Office.

This reduction was due primarily to faster turnaround times for the service along with the introduction of improved communication channels within the Passport Service, including a new online complaints portal, according to the Ombudsman.

Regarding the complaints about DAFM and the other departments and offices, the Ombudsman report stated: “Overall, of the complaints received in this sector which we were able to investigate, we upheld or partly upheld 23% and provided some form of assistance in a further 24% of cases.

“53% of cases were not upheld.”

Other areas which saw complaints made to the Ombudsman were healthcare and in particular, private nursing homes.

The Ombudsman received 96 complaints about private nursing homes in 2023. This was a 43% increase in the number of complaints received in 2022.

2023 saw a number of high profile closures of private nursing homes which resulted in service users contacting the Ombudsman, the report stated.

Excluding complaints withdrawn, discontinued or outside the remit of the Ombudsman office, 22% of complaints were upheld or partly upheld, 29% were not upheld and in 49% of complaints the Ombudsman provided some assistance to the complainant.

There were also 79 complaints made about the Road Safety Authority (RSA), and 64 complaints about the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Among the RSA issues complained about were difficulties applying for, or renewing, driving licences, and arranging driving tests.

Among the NTA issues were complaint handling and dealing with clamping appeals.

Case study on pension eligibility

In one example of a complaint to the Ombudsman, ‘Joe’ complained when the Department of Social Protection refused to backdate payment of his Contributory State Pension to the date he would have become eligible at 66 years of age.

Joe had applied when he was 70, and was granted the pension which was backdated for six months prior to his application – the time provided for in legislation.

Joe told the Ombudsman that he had visited a local office of the department shortly before turning 66.

He was told he was unlikely to qualify for a pension and was not eligible for a Non-Contributory State pension. As a result, he did not pursue his application any further.

The Ombudsman raised the issue with the department. The department did not dispute that the man had visited its local office and that he was told he was not eligible for a Non-Contributory pension.

However, the Ombudsman believed that Joe should have been informed of his possible eligibility for a Contributory State Pension at that time.

He believed the department should review Joe’s case with a view to backdating his payment to when he was 66.

The department reviewed Joe’s case and accepted that it should have informed Joe of his
possible entitlement when he approached the department’s local office.

The man was awarded arrears of €46,040 backdated to the date he became eligible.