Naomi and Chris attended the Socio-Legal Studies Association conference in Bristol on 27-29 March 2018. They presented an overview of the ESRC Just Energy project at the ‘Access to Justice in Context’ in stream.
Naomi provided an overview of the project and its aims, and concentrated on setting out how the research would address questions around vulnerability and energy poverty. She highlighted the use of theoretical frameworks drawn from work on energy cultures and energy justice.
Chris discussed the research questions the project will try to answer, the importance of the energy sector as a case study for investigating the issue of access to justice, and some of the issues the project hopes to address on the theme of ‘designing justice’.
A copy of the presentation which provides further information can be found here:
Marine Cornelis and Carolyn Hirst have recently joined the Just Energy project as consultants working on research and policy analysis activities. This post provides a brief introduction to each of them.
Marine Cornelis is an expert and independent consultant in legal and policy developments regarding Energy, Consumer Protection, Energy Poverty and Dispute Resolution, at EU and international levels. She got into consumer protection and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) through her 6-year experience as the Secretary-General of NEON, the Network of Energy Ombudsmen and ADR bodies. Marine was leading the association in its advocacy, lobbying and European public affairs activities. Prior to joining NEON, Marine worked as a complaint manager for the Belgian energy ombudsman and completed a traineeship at the European Parliament, as well as other work experiences focused on the variety of energy issues and public affairs. Marine was born in France, but she has lived in Belgium, Bulgaria and Hungary, and is currently living in Italy. She is fluent in French, Italian and English, and has good knowledge of Spanish and basis in Dutch and Bulgarian.
Carolyn Hirst is an independent researcher and consultant with her own business, Hirstworks, through which she practices as a mediator, investigator, complaints reviewer, trainer and coach. She is a part-time Housing Mediation Project Development Worker at Strathclyde University and a Visiting Lecturer at Queen Margaret University. Carolyn is the Mediation Practice Supervisor for the Cyrenians, a Lay Member of Employment Tribunals (Scotland) and an Ordinary Member of the First Tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber). She previously worked as a Deputy Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and as the Interim Principal Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services. Before that she worked in Social Housing for nearly 20 years, latterly as a Deputy Director of a Housing and Care Organisation. Current Board positions include being a Non-Executive Director of NHS Lothian and Vice-Chair of Edinburgh Joint Integration Board.
Marine is currently working on a mapping exercise and producing a policy analysis report. Carolyn is developing a literature review and bibliography to support the project. Their work will feed into forthcoming outputs of the project. We are delighted to be benefiting from their expertise and looking forward to working with them both.
On 5 February 2018, Chris spoke at a seminar organised by JUSTICE, UKAJI, and the Ombudsman Association. The theme of the seminar was “Complaints about public services – where next for the ombud?”
Chris discussed a report co-written with Tom Mullen (University of Glasgow) and Nial Vivian (Queen Margaret University) on evaluating the work of the Complaints Standards Authority of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
This innovative approach to standard setting in complaints handling combines a top-down and bottom-up approach through establishing complaint handler networks and raising standards of complaint handling by public bodies in the jurisdiction of the ombud, as well as encouraging ‘local’ ownership of complaint handling.
The study’s conclusions were generally positive: the Complaint Standards Authority approach had substantial potential to deliver improvements in complaint handling and wider public administration. At the same time, Chris noted that more granular data is needed, such as on specific subjects of complaint, and there was some inconsistency in data collection, for example in recording subjective measures such as learning from complaints.
Chris pointed out that questions also remain about outcomes and what to measure in terms of improvements.
A copy of Chris’ slides can be found here:
A blog post providing an overview of the seminar has also been published on the UKAJI website. This can be accessed here.
Naomi and Marine Cornelis attended the launch of the European Union Energy Poverty Observatory in Brussels yesterday. Marine has recently joined our project as a consultant and is providing us with expert policy research and analysis.
The launch event provided stakeholders and the wider public with information on the objectives and instruments of the Observatory and was an opportunity to obtain feedback on their expectations of it. Marine was one of the speakers and addressed the event in her capacity as General Secretary of the National Energy Ombudsman Network (NEON). Marine highlighted the key role of ombuds and ADR schemes in tackling energy poverty. She discussed the role of ombuds, noting that they are not judges, but they act like whistleblowers, they hear, they care and they report the issues and have a crucial mission to steer the sector and influence policymakers and regulators. Marine also highlighted Naomi’s previous research on ADR and the lessons that could be drawn from that.
Photo: Marine addresses launch event
The creation of the EU Energy Poverty Observatory is part of the Commission’s efforts to address energy poverty across EU countries. The Observatory aims to provide a user-friendly and open-access resource that will promote public engagement on the issue of energy poverty, disseminate information and good practice, facilitate knowledge sharing among stakeholders, as well as support informed decision making at local, national and EU level. The Observatory is being developed by a consortium led by the University of Manchester and includes, as core partners, Ecofys, National Energy Action, the European Policy Centre, Intrasoft International and the Wuppertal Institut.
The launch event was a valuable opportunity for networking and developing contacts with key stakeholders interested in energy poverty and vulnerability in the energy sector. We look forward to following up on this and contributing to the work of the European Poverty Observatory in future.
More information about the launch event can be accessed here.
More information about the Observatory is available here.
Naomi will be addressing an exchange workshop taking stock of ADR in France, two years after the implementation of the ADR directive across Europe.
The event is being organised by the French energy ADR body (le médiateur national de l’énergie) in order to exchange views on consumer ADR in France and Europe on this two year anniversary.
Naomi will be discussing her research on how consumers perceive the ADR process and the degree to which it engenders trust and is seen as legitimate. She will also outline the ESRC Just Energy project and describe what the project aims to achieve over the next three years and how it will benefit stakeholders and consumers in the European energy sector.
The event will also be an opportunity to connect with key European stakeholders interested in ADR and access to justice in the energy sector.
For full details of the event and other speakers involved, the full programme can be accessed here: http://www.energie-mediateur.fr/2-ans-de-mediation-de-consommation/
On 4 December 2017, Rob Behrens gave the inaugural lecture “Looking back to look forward: celebrating 50 years of the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) and a glimpse into the future” hosted by the Institute of Public Affairs at the London School of Economics.
Rob shared reflections on what can be learned from 50 years of the PHSO being in operation, and on the challenges which the PHSO and the wider ombuds community face now and in the future.
Naomi responded raising issues about the shift in understanding and expectations of the ombudsman – where citizens have stronger opinions about what the state, public services, its agencies, and ombuds ought to deliver.
Naomi questioned the idea of an “ombuds brand” – is there such a thing as a clearly identifiable ombuds ideal-type?
And how can ombuds respond to their users’ needs and expectations if those are typically not matched with what an ombuds is meant to deliver?
Naomi shared some insights from her empirical findings of ombuds users (public and private), which considered issues of timeliness, trust, and fairness. Finally, she discussed some findings of the ‘ombuds watchers’ project that she and Chris conducted, looking at groups campaigning for ombuds reform.
The event was well attended by a mix of ombuds, academics, lawyers, and complainants.
Naomi spoke today at the European Law Institute (ELI) annual conference in Vienna. Her panel discussed the preliminary findings of the joint ELI-ENCJ Project on the Principled Relationship of Formal and Informal Justice through the Courts and Alternative Dispute Resolution.
The Project has already consulted on the risks arising from different methods of ADR, and the relationship between court-based and non-court-based dispute resolution processes. It also consulted on a code of good practice as to what courts and judges need to assess when considering or requiring the parties to participate in an ADR process. The feedback received will be analysed and further discussed during the panel. The Project Team will present its final report at the end of 2017.
Naomi, drawing upon empirical data, outlined the importance of taking the user perspective into account when designing ADR – especially thinking about access to justice and how vulnerable users can be integrated into the process. Further, the complex relationship between the courts and ADR needs to be understood though the lens of the national context as well as the type of dispute being talked about.
Not all ADR is the same!
A copy of the conference programme is available to download here: Conference Brochure.