Nevertheless, the Ombudsman issued decisions on more complaints than the number received
The Ombudsman received nearly 4,400 complaints last year (3,694 in 2008). This represents an increase of nearly 18 per cent on the previous year.
The number of cases in which decisions were issued by the Ombudsman last year was likewise a new record at nearly 4,500 (3,724), close to 20 per cent more than in 2008. Decisions in 80 matters that had been investigated on the Ombudsman's own initiative were also issued.
Complaints concerning the health authorities, social welfare, social insurance and the labour administration on the increase
Most complaints have traditionally concerned the social welfare and health care authorities, the police, the prison service and courts. Last year, the number of complaints concerning health care was more than double what it had been in 2008, nearly 800 (389). The growth is in largely explainable by the fact that a plan to close the maternity wing of the Länsi-Uusimaa Hospital in Tammisaari prompted 345 complaints in June-July.
Over 500 complaints concerned social welfare, an increase of nearly 30 per cent on the previous year. The reason for this increase has not yet been analysed.
Although labour administration does not belong to the largest categories where numbers of complaints are concerned, it is noteworthy that the number of complaints in this area grew by 60 per cent last year. Part of the growth is explained by the fact that there were numerous complaints about delay on the part of unemployment funds in processing benefit applications and the actions of Employment and Economic Development Centres.
The greater part of decisions, over 1,200, concerned the health care authorities and social welfare. Decisions were issued in over 700 police complaints and nearly 400 concerning the prison service. Decisions were also issued in over 300 complaints concerning social insurance.
The proportion of decisions by the Ombudsman that led to a measure was nearly 19 per cent, which is approximately the same as in the previous year.
The Ombudsman issued reprimands to 35 authorities. Most reprimands related to actions by the health care, prison and police authorities. Expressions of opinion by the Ombudsman, which were meant as a rebuke or as guidance for future reference, relating to actions being in compliance with the law, the requirements of good administration or aspects of promoting implementation of fundamental and human rights were issued to 680 authorities for their information. Most expressions of opinion went to the police, prison, social welfare and health care authorities.
One of the Ombudsman's key tasks, in addition to investigating matters on the basis of complaints or on his or her own initiative, is to conduct in situ inspections in public administrative offices and institutions. The main sites inspected are prisons, psychiatric hospitals and units of the Defence Forces. A total of 58 sites were inspected last year. Most of them were conducted by the Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen, but some were also entrusted to Legal Advisers from the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. As had been done in the previous year, also unannounced visits to prisons were made.
When the Ombudsman's statistics for 2009 have been checked, we shall update and supplement the information on the Ombudsman's web site under "The work of the Ombudsman".