Bermuda’s Office of the Ombudsman, headed up by Victoria Pearman, handled a total of 299 cases, “including 214 new complaints, 49 new enquiries and 36 outstanding complaints that remained open as of January 1, 2019.
Ombudsman for Bermuda, issued her Annual Report for the calendar year 2019 yearly update to the public on the work of her Office.
Ms Pearman’s Annual Report 2019 was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday, which “includes selected case summaries which give insight into the different ways in which we worked to help people resolve complaints brought to us”.
A spokesperson said: “It provides commentaries on Corrections’ complaint numbers, mental health awareness and considerations for apology legislation, as well as useful information about public authorities which may be of assistance to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It also includes highlights from the 10th Biennial Caribbean Ombudsman Association Conference which was hosted by the Office last year. The Bermuda Declaration, a statement of principles for guidance to ombudsman in the region, was adopted at the Conference.”
The report also highlights some of the Office’s work during 2019 including ongoing systemic investigations:
- into delays in hearing applications by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which reportedly has been affecting the timeliness of victims of crimes receiving compensation
- into the adequacy of the Government’s communication about public bus cancellations and delays
- into senior abuse complaints
“As Ombudsman, my duty is to protect the interests of the public to ensure fair treatment in the provision of public services. In doing so, we prioritise safeguarding the needs of the most vulnerable,” said Ms Pearman.
“Some of the people we have assisted this reporting year include the elderly and young in care; persons with physical and mental health challenges; children with special educational needs; the indigent; the unsheltered and people who have lost their liberty. These are areas where systems have not always provided what was needed.
“Ours is an office of last resort. We are here to assist when people are unsure where they can turn. During the period of compiling this report our island has been contending with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We along with people all over the world have had to adapt as best we can to this new reality we are currently living in. This pandemic has been a shock to the system. It has highlighted existing weaknesses and revealed additional vulnerabilities.
“Access to information corresponds with access to services. Those addressing the public must be mindful of this. It is unhelpful if people are directed only to online platforms to complete applications or ask questions when they are unable to do so. As the Government looks to advance e-Government usage, this will require consideration of ways to assist members of the public, including the vulnerable, who are not connected to the internet.”
Ms Pearman added: “Our role is to safeguard access to administrative justice. We provide people who have unresolved complaints with an alternative means of fairly resolving them. We carefully listen to concerns and are alert to identify things that are not working. We use the information gathered, through our privileged position with the public, to learn. Our professional relationship with the public service and the Government allows us to bring issues forward to be addressed.”
In closing, she extended her “sincere thanks to members of the public who continue to entrust us with their complaints”.
“Complaints brought to our attention help to identify areas of general concern.”
She also expressed her thanks to “those who work in the various areas of the public service for their work, assistance and cooperation”.
The Report acknowledges the Acute Community Mental Health Services at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, Department of Corrections and Department of Financial Assistance for their work.
It was also noted that “due to COVID-19 precautions, print copies of the Report with an enclosed survey will be distributed and available to the public at a later date”.
The Office encourages the public to share their comments about the Annual Report 2019 and the Office’s services. A survey is included in the electronic version of the Report and is available online.
The Report can be downloaded from www.ombudsman.bm, along with all previous reports published by the Office.
Arrangements can be made for appointments by calling or via email.
For persons who do not have access to contact us by telephone or email, there are limited walk-in services to arrange an appointment. For more information, contact the Office at 296-6541 or firstname.lastname@example.org.