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ombudsman news

Q&As

featuring questions raised recently with our free, expert helpline for businesses and advice workers

You encourage people to call your helpline. But how much can you really help over the phone?

Last year, our helpline received more than two million enquiries. For many of the people who called us, we were able to sort things out straight away. Other people told us that, after talking things through, they felt more confident about dealing with the problem themselves - whether we’d suggested practical next steps, cleared up some confusion, or just helped them get their thoughts in order.

As part of our work to make sure we’re adding value, we try to find out what happens after people have contacted our helpline. In our most recent research, we found that 45% of people who called us went on to sort out the problem themselves. And of those people, 98% said talking to us early on helped them do this. Looking at the other 55%, many people said they were talking to the business - and might ask us to step in if this didn’t work.

But there are still some people who let the matter drop - without ever resolving things in a way they’re happy with. We continue to try to find out what’s putting them off - so we can understand and address the feelings and barriers that stop people getting an answer to their problem. There’s more information about this in our annual review.

You said more older people used the ombudsman last year. Do older people use your website?

Yes, they do. Last year, nearly one in three people who used our website were over 55. There’s more information about who visits our website in our annual review.

But among people who referred a complaint to us, 18% of those aged 55 to 64 - and nearly half of people aged over 65s - said they didn’t have internet access. So we continue to use a range of other channels to raise awareness of the ombudsman.

Who are the ombudsmen? What are their backgrounds?

We’re a service for everyone. So it’s important that the people who work for us have a range of backgrounds and experience.

Because of the type of work we do, around two thirds of our ombudsmen come from the legal profession, local and central government, or regulation and “dispute resolution” in other sectors. Many previously worked in a variety of financial services. And some have developed their skills and careers through working in other roles at the ombudsman service over a number of years.

Our board of non-executive directors appoints ombudsmen who have the appropriate qualifications and experience to make decisions in complaints. There’s more about the backgrounds of our ombudsmen in our annual review, as well as brief career summaries on our website

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ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.