May 5th

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has today issued guidelines to public service providers on the importance of giving a proper apology if things go wrong.  The ‘Guide to Making a Meaningful Apology’, is aimed at government departments, local authorities, the HSE and other providers of public services when dealing with complaints from the public.

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said:

“Many people who complain to my Office about public services tell me that what they are looking for is for the service provider to acknowledge that something went wrong and to receive a meaningful apology. People tell us they want to be listened to. They want to be reassured that lessons have been learned and that the same mistake does not happen again.”

The Guide explains what a meaningful apology is, what people want from an apology as well as the benefits of getting apologies right.

The Ombudsman has found that, on many occasions, complaints could have been avoided if an apology had been given by front line staff or a senior manager.

The Ombudsman added:

“An apology is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it can be a sign of strength and it can show that public service providers are willing to learn when something has gone wrong. It can also show that a service provider is committed to putting things right. To apologise is good practice and it is an important part of effectively managing complaints.”

The Ombudsman’s ‘Guide to Making a Meaningful Apology’ is available on the Ombudsman’s website.