Own Initiative investigations

Latest news

24 June 2019
Ombudsman commences investigation into handling of Personal Independence Payments (PIPs)

The Ombudsman has informed the Department for Communities that she is launching an investigation into the way the Department administers Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

The decision follows a proposal sent to the Department earlier this year, in which Ombudsman Marie Anderson stated that after an initial assessment of the Department’s procedures she was considering an investigation.

Following detailed consideration of the information available and the views of the Department for Communities, other Oversight bodies, MLAs and other members of civil society, the Ombudsman remains satisfied that the criteria for launching an ‘own initiative’ investigation have been met.

The Public Service Ombudsman Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 allows the Ombudsman to initiate an investigation if she has a reasonable suspicion of systemic maladministration, or if systemic injustice has been sustained as a result of the exercise of professional judgement.

The investigation will look in particular at the availability and application of further evidence (such as GP records, Occupational Therapist assessments, carers’ reports etc.) in the decision making, mandatory re-consideration and complaints processes.

The full Terms of Reference are available here.


21 January 2019

Ombudsman proposes investigation into Department’s handling of Personal Independence Payments (PIPs)

The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman has informed the Department for Communities that she is proposing, under new powers, to launch an investigation into the way the Department administers Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). The welfare benefit replaced Disability Living Allowance in June 2016.

The investigation would be the first under the Ombudsman’s ‘own initiative’ power, which allows for an investigation to take place where there is a suspicion of systemic maladministration.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson has written to the Department’s Permanent Secretary stating that since June 2016 there have been a significant number of complaints about PIPs to her Office.

She also noted the high number of the Department’s decisions which have been upheld by Mandatory Reconsideration, but then overturned by an Appeal Tribunal.

Following an assessment of the Department’s procedures, she stated that she was satisfied that the criteria for an own initiative investigation have been met.

Ombudsman investigations are normally only carried out on receipt of a specific complaint. However, the ‘own initiative’ power allows the Ombudsman to act even when no complaint has been received.

The Ombudsman has received acknowledgement from the Department that they have received notification of the proposal, and she awaits further information.

Under the terms of the Public Services Ombudsman (Northern Ireland) Act 2016, the Ombudsman must publish a report of any ‘own initiative’ investigation.

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