News from New Hampshire - US Ombudsman Association Conference

Arriving at the welcome reception for the United States Ombudsman Association Conference in Portsmouth (USA), it became clear that we would not have won the farthest travelled, had there been such an award! We travelled from Edinburgh (Scotland), joining representatives from Pakistan, Tonga, Nigeria, Senegal, as well as Canada and numerous US states. After most such gatherings had been temporarily halted by Covid, it was a privilege to see so many countries represented in one room.

An Opera of Ombuds?

As the conference kicked off, collective terms were the subject of discussion - some delegates keep the original Swedish term (Ombudsman) while others shorten it to “Ombuds” or “Ombos”, as they say in Australia. An ‘Opera of Ombuds’ was one light-hearted contender!

However, far from light-hearted is some of the business Ombudsman confront in a day at the office, ranging from unreasonable conduct by angry complainants to reviewing something as serious as the death of a child.

An ‘Opera of Ombuds’ as a term has some validity – there is real-life human drama behind much Ombuds casework. And the challenges facing Ombuds organisations today could well be compared to the building tension encountered on an opera stage. The role of the Ombudsman is to find the facts and seek to promote a fair and consistent outcome for all concerned – to put right wrongs and to prevent further injustice from lessons learned. This is especially poignant to those who could not afford legal representation were the Ombuds community not available.

What challenges are faced by Ombuds?

The conference got underway on Wednesday with shared wisdom on turning adversaries into supporters or even partners, and how the Ombudsman community is dealing with typical business issues like adapting to working remotely and embracing diversity and inclusion. As the week went on; best practice investigative models, the science behind investigation data and outcomes, and recognising vulnerabilities and culture were all on the agenda.

Support agencies and commercial organisations are hard-pressed in these times, so teasing out a reasonable outcome is becoming just as important as applying the letter of the law. One prominent member of the Ombuds community reminds us that the law does not make allowances for circumstances. So, the Ombudsman may find FIRMLY in favour of the complainant, however, the extent to which the agency that has fallen short will have the resources to meet every need raises a whole different set of questions. 

An Ombudsman’s job involves gathering data on complicated cases while conscientiously recording communication, all for the cause of achieving a fair outcome.

How can Workpro help?

Managing casework on all manner of topics is where Workpro software comes in, guiding the process, managing timelines, accumulating reporting data and insights, and keeping “the whole case in one place”. Workpro manages the admin while allowing the Ombudsman to focus on analysing the facts and coming to a fair conclusion.

Find out more about our case management solutions for Ombudsman