Nova Scotians are more aware of the Office of the Ombudsman and have better access to it. The Office of the Ombudsman released its annual report today, March 30. It outlines the office’s role with the public and government bodies, and highlights its many initiatives and recommendations to continue to improve services. Last year, the office held outreach sessions and visited sites throughout the province, reaching out to about 2,700 people. “We’re pleased that there has been greater awareness and use of the Office of the Ombudsman during this past year,” said Dwight Bishop, Ombudsman. “The office’s capacity has improved, and continues to make strides, particularly in the areas of youth, seniors and adult corrections.” The ombudsman’s role is to work, co-operatively and impartially, on behalf of the public service, and the public to ensure government officials exercise fairness and consistency. It investigates concerns about government services and strives to bring about timely resolutions. The number of overall complaints in the 2007-08 fiscal year increased 20 per cent to 2,251 from 1,801 in 2006-07. The number of jurisdictional matters addressed increased by 9.5 per cent, to 1,623 in the 2007-08 fiscal year from 1,487 in 2006-07. Jurisdictional matters are inquiries and complaints about provincial and municipal government entities. Gaming, environment, youth, and corrections issues occupied a significant amount of the office’s time in 2007-08. The area of disclosure of wrongdoing has also grown. Investigations of those allegations are complex, sensitive and arduous. Two investigations revealed gaps in corporate policies that have led to recommendations for policy development, and one led to a finding of wrongdoing. The number of requests from government bodies for input on policy development has also increased. The office will work to improve its capacity for additional requests from government officials to review and comment on legislation, regulations, policies and procedures. The office also completed its Youth Evaluation Interview Pilot. The project gained a first-hand understanding from youth about their experiences receiving government services. The pilot also offered youth the opportunity to provide input on programs and services. The number of seniors complaints in 2007-08 increased to 43, from 32 last year and 25 the previous year. An outreach program initiated to residential-care facilities in Cape Breton, assessed the best approach for the office’s role for seniors in care. The program found there was a need to educate families, caregivers and seniors’ resident councils on the role and mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman’s 2007-08 Annual Report is available at gov.ns.ca/ombu .