The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) was set up by the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005 (PSOWA 2005). This Act has been repealed and replaced by the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2019 (PSOW 2019) which came into force on 22 May 2019.
Under PSOWA 2005, the Welsh Administration Ombudsman (which had been set up by the Government of Wales Act 1998), the Health Service Commissioner for Wales, the Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales and the Commission for Local Administration in Wales (including the office of the Local Commissioner for Wales) were abolished. Broadly speaking, the role and remit of those offices were transferred to the PSOW. The PSOW 2019 provides for the continuation of this office.
The PSOW investigates complaints from members of the public about alleged maladministration and service failure by the bodies which are listed in Schedule 3 to PSOW 2019 and referred to as ‘Listed Authorities’. These include the Welsh Government, local authorities, local health boards and Police and Crime Commissioners.
The PSOW 2019 also provides the PSOW with some new powers, including the power to carry out own initiative investigations into Listed Authorities even where there is no complaint from a member of the public. The PSOW can only use this power if the requirements set out in the Act are met and in accordance with the own initiative criteria that the PSOW must prepare and publish.
The PSOW also has the same powers of investigation in relation to bodies providing Social Care and Palliative care.
The PSOW maintains a full list of the bodies it may investigate on its website.
The Welsh Ministers have the power to amend the list of bodies in Schedule 3 which the PSOW has power to investigate, although there are restrictions on the types of bodies they can add to the list.
The PSOW 2019 also gives the PSOW new powers to prepare and publish a statement of principles about complaints-handling and permits the PSOW to publish model complaints handling procedures for Listed Authorities.
The Ombudsman has powers to work jointly with other ombudsmen where appropriate.
The PSOW is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen following a nomination from the National Assembly for Wales. The PSOW is appointed for seven years and can only be removed from office if he or she becomes incapable of performing his or her duties for medical reasons, or on grounds of misbehaviour. The PSOW cannot be removed on grounds of misbehaviour unless at least two-thirds of National Assembly Members have voted in favour of removal. Her Majesty can appoint an acting Ombudsman if the office becomes vacant for any reason.