Providing fair and equitable service that is responsive to an individual’s needs is an important part of administrative fairness.
In early March 2021, Ms. Smith* called the Ombudsman’s intake line to complain that Alberta Works had held back her monthly cheque for the third time in recent months. She believed the problem was that the department had recorded her mailing address incorrectly. As a result, any mail the department sent to Ms. Smith was returned to them, indicating that Ms. Smith was not living where she said she was living.
This small administrative problem had a huge impact on Ms. Smith. She said she couldn’t pay her rent, she couldn’t renew her prescriptions, and she couldn’t buy food.
On several occasions, Ms. Smith had asked her caseworker to add her post office box to her mailing address; however, the problem continued. On the occasions when she did receive mail from Alberta Works, Ms. Smith said someone had handwritten the post office box on the outside of the envelope.
To address service-related complaints like this one, the Ombudsman office typically provides complainants with contact information for a supervisor or manager. After repeatedly trying to resolve the matter with her caseworker, Ms. Smith needed someone else to listen to her and correct any errors on her file.
Our office contacted the service delivery manager for the region and asked if he would be open to having Ms. Smith email him directly to try to resolve any outstanding issues. He readily agreed and we provided his contact information to Ms. Smith. She was then able to raise her service complaints with him, address the problems on her file, and get her cheque released.
The Ombudsman’s office connects complainants to the right person or process by making appropriate and timely referrals. For all public bodies, timely service, an accessible complaint process, and being responsive to individual needs are all components of an administratively fair service delivery model.
*Not the complainant’s real name