Complaining to a public body

You have the right to complain if you are unhappy with the service provided by a public body.

Complaints are a useful source of feedback for organisations and can result in better public services.

If you are unhappy with a public body your first step is to let them know.  Every organisation should have a complaints procedure which will tell you who to send your complaint to. If you follow this procedure it will give the organisation a chance to resolve your complaint.

Contact your local Advice Centre or elected representative (eg. a local councillor, MLA or MP) if you are unsure what to do or if you are nervous about making a complaint.

If you put your complaint in writing you should keep copies of your emails or letters and their replies.  

When you make a complaint you should:

  • Explain what has gone wrong. 
  • Say how it has affected you.
  • Say what outcome you are looking for (eg. an apology, policy change, explanation, etc.)

You should also ask for confirmation that the organisation has received your complaint, and when you should expect a reply.

If you are still unhappy at the end of the process you can make a complaint to us.

Complaining to the Ombudsman

We are here to help.  If you need help making your complaint, or if you are unsure about anything please get in touch.

The quickest way for your complaint to be registered with us is by completing our online form.  However, you can also contact us by phone, email or in writing.

Our office is also open to the public between the hours of 12 noon and 2.00pm every weekday.  

If you would like to speak to a member of staff in person please visit during these hours or call us to arrange an appointment.

What we investigate

We can help if you think a public body has treated you unfairly or caused you hardship or injustice. 

Our investigations look at the organisations actions, and any relevant policies, procedures and legislation. We aim to help public bodies learn lessons from our investigations and to make sure they do not repeat mistakes. 

We investigate most public bodies in Northern Ireland, but the sectors we receive the most complaints about are health, housing, education, and central and local government

See below for more information about the types of complaints we investigate in these sectors.

Health and social care

We investigate complaints about hospitals, care homes and other health care providers such as social workers, doctors, dentists and opticians.  We can deal with complaints about the care and treatment these bodies provide, as well as their administrative actions. We might be able to look into complaints about private healthcare treatment, but only if organised and paid for by a Health Trust. 

Examples of the things we deal with include:

  • The quality of care given to patients

  • Inappropriate treatment

  • Misdiagnosis

  • Needs assessments

  • Fees and charges

  • Safety and safeguarding issues
  • Poor communication with patients
  • Poor complaints handling

Government departments and their agencies

We deal with complaints about government departments and agencies set up by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Examples of the type of subjects we can look at include:

  • Allocation of grants or benefits
  • Single farm payments
  • MOT tests 
  • Rates
  • Broadband access
  • Poor communication
  • Poor complaints handling


We deal with complaints about all grant-aided nursery, primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland, as well as further education colleges, Queen's University and the University of Ulster. We can also investigate the actions of the Education Authority.

We can look at things like:

  • How schools dealt with allegations of bullying

  • Difficulties or delays in getting a Special Educational Needs assessment

  • Applications procedures for admissions

  • Accommodation, welfare and support issues

  • Failure to give information on the awarding of grades

  • Poor communication with students or parents

  • Poor complaints handling

We are unable to look at:

  • personnel matters

  • the quality of teaching 

  • the awarding of grades


We can look into complaints about social housing organisations, such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.  We check whether they acted properly in the way they handled your request or dealt with your complaint.

This could be over things like:

  • anti-social behaviour
  • the quality of your accommodation, including worries about damp or mould in your house or flat
  • how long it's taken them to do something, such as repair your home
  • heating, lighting, plumbing, and electrical safety issues
  • waiting lists
  • failure to maintain common areas
  • threats of eviction
  • allocation of housing
  • poor communication with residents
  • poor complaints handling

We cannot force a housing association to give you a house, or to put you higher up the housing list.  

We cannot look at complaints about private rented accommodation.  

Local government

The 11 local councils in Northern Ireland are responsible for a large range of services.  The types of things we can look at include the way councils have dealt with concerns about:

  • planning applications
  • enforcement of planning decisions
  • antisocial behaviour
  • noise nuisance
  • waste and refuse (including bin collections)
  • footpaths, rights of way and other communal areas
  • leisure facilities
  • poor communication
  • poor complaints handling

We are here to help.

Before you make a complaint to us you should normally have:

  • Complained directly to the organisation  
  • Gone through its complaints process
  • Received a final response to your complaint

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