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Citizen redress: what citizens can do if things go wrong in the public services

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The various systems of public redress allow citizens to seek remedies for what they perceive to be poor treatment, mistakes, faults or injustices in their dealings with departments or agencies. They are the arrangements for getting things put right, remedying grievances, securing a second view or appealing a disputed decision and, where compensation is appropriate, the means through which this can be sought. Even where no fault is found, people should benefit from the assurance that they have been fairly treated and that decisions have been correctly made under the relevant rules. This report is not a single definitive analysis of redress; instead it is a first attempt to map the overall picture. The main focus is on the processes within government organizations for handling both complaints and appeals. The report also acknowledges the important roles of ombudsmen and other independent examiners and adjudicators within the realm of administrative justice. They routinely field the cases that departments and agencies have been unable to resolve, and are well placed to comment upon how existing systems might best be improved. Nearly 1.4 million cases are received through redress systems in central government annually and are processed by over 9,300 staff and at an annual cost of £510 million. In addition, processing these cases can create substantial additional expenditure –(a minimum of £198 million in central government) through legal aid costs paid to people who are eligible for this assistance. These additional costs are primarily in immigration and asylum appeals with lesser amounts on benefit appeals. The various redress mechanisms in this report have grown up over time and there is little consistency in their operation, making it difficult for departments and agencies to benchmark systems, identify inefficiencies and reduce costs while improving service. Most government organizations operate with an inclusive view of complaints as ‘any expression of dissatisfaction’, but others have a narrower definition, recording only interactions with dissatisfied customers as complaints, and others do not count complaints made and resolved at local or regional level. Only a very small number pay compensation and have therefore had to recognise the direct financial costs of their mistakes. There is also a problem with information. Around half of central government organizations cannot answer how many complaints they have received in either of the last two years. An important theme in the report is the value of redress mechanisms as a source of information for organizations about difficulties faced by their customers, and about the quality of their administrative processes. They may provide early warning of poor or deteriorating service, systematic errors in decision making, or problems with specific processes or areas of operation. Organizations that react quickly to early warnings can minimise the time and cost of resolving these difficulties, ideally with many straightforward complaints being put right without delay by a simple apology or though informal but effective channels.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/595/1/cover-NAO_1.pdf

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