City of Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean says more residents than ever are reporting problems with city staff and services, and the complaints are more serious than in past years.
Crean said this morning that “growing social inequity” and basic human rights issues, in such areas as housing, child care and social services, contributes to the matters investigated by her office. Rudeness, failure to respond to residents, and a failure to explain decisions, are at the heart of many complaints, she said.
The Ombudsman’s 2013 Annual Report, released today, outlines the 1,827 complaints the office dealt with in 2013. That is an increase of 28% over the year before.
“Some of the growth can be attributed to the office becoming more widely known,” says Crean. “But the demonstrated increase in social inequality is clearly another factor. People are increasingly turning to programs such as subsidized child care, public housing and social assistance to ensure their well being.”
The annual report notes that 70% of the complaints involved poor communication by city staff and inadequate information being given to residents. This is an increase from 55% in 2012, and 40% in 2011.
Two instances cited in the Annual Report:
Due to an illness, Ms. S. inadvertently let the business licence lapse for her beauty salon. Staff told her she needed to submit building plans in order to get her licence back, but her landlord did not have them. After the Ombudsman intervened, staff acknowledged they could have told Ms. S. to get the plans from the city’s building staff since they had already been filed there.
Ms. H. ended her existing lease after Housing Connections told her that, in two months, she and her children could instead move into a home owned by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. A week before the move, Ms. H. went to see the house, and found it was being repaired because it had failed a safety inspection. She and her children were now homeless. Housing Connections admitted “information was not communicated in detail.”
Created under the City of Toronto Act, the Ombudsman is an officer of Toronto City Council. The ombudsman is an impartial investigator of residents’ complaints about the administration of city government. The Office is a place of last resort, offering free and confidential services.
Office of the Toronto Ombudsman
Ontario Ombudsman Site
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