Nova Scotia’s Ombudsman says the services of his office should be broadened to better meet the needs of vulnerable people.
Dwight Bishop said the growing need is most obvious among groups such as youth, new Nova Scotians and people “navigating an intricate health care system.
In his annual report released today, Nov. 26, Mr. Bishop also said “propriety in government” is an evolving public concern, fuelled by numerous reports of misconduct.
“Citizens want oversight bodies such as the Ombudsman’s Office to be increasingly vigilant,” he said.
Mr. Bishop referred to several cases he dealt with in 2012-13, which he said underscore the need for expanded ombudsman services and more in-depth investigations.
His investigation of the Cumberland Regional Economic Development Authority (CREDA) is a local example of what the public may see as increasing impropriety.
“This was an issue of accountability for public spending, and as such was of interest to all citizens,” he said.
In the case, the Ombudsman’s report prompted the province to hire a private company to conduct a forensic audit of authority projects.
Mr. Bishop said the acute needs of vulnerable people became even more obvious during an investigation of methods available to check the history and suitability of people hired to work with youth at risk. His report found there is “no comprehensive approach” in Canada, and in Nova Scotia, “legislation requiring background checks does not exist.”
He said another disturbing case examined services for people with “complex needs”, those challenged by multiple psychological and physical health problems who fall outside the scope of conventional services.
Mr. Bishop cited one example of a young woman diagnosed with attention deficit disorder compounded by severe aggression and a speech impediment. He said the Department of Community Services acknowledged the woman did not fit their “continuum of services.” The case could be addressed only by increasing staff at a care facility.
Two 2012-13 investigations involved fatalities: the death of an inmate at a provincial correctional facility, and the death of a child of a family receiving government services. Mr. Bishop said the death-in-custody report has been completed and its recommendations accepted by the Department of Justice. The child-death investigation will be completed by the end of the year.
The office is also conducting a review of the Residential Child Caring Facilities Program.
In 2012-13, the Ombudsman’s Office received 18 new complaints under the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act. One investigation was completed and two others are underway.
Mr. Bishop said his office looks forward to “expanding our role in areas that present new service demands and increased public expectations.
“In the end, my concerns are about adequate resources to meet increasing needs.”
The annual report is available at www.gov.ns.ca/ombu .