Legal Ombudsman

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 15 January 2024.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether his Department is taking steps to help reduce average processing times for cases with the Legal Ombudsman.

Photo of Mike Freer Mike Freer Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Under the Legal Services Act 2007, the legal profession in England and Wales, together with its regulators, operate independently of government. The oversight regulator for the legal services sector is the Legal Services Board (LSB). The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) is the board responsible for administering the Legal Ombudsman Scheme (LeO), and as such, the OLC is required to report on the performance of the Legal Ombudsman to the LSB.

The OLC and LeO have been transparent that waiting times experienced by consumers and legal providers needing input from LeO remain too long. Against a backdrop of increasing demand, LeO has made progress in reducing waiting times in recent years. A key driver of improvements to date has been the introduction of early resolution approaches from 2022/23. Before this transformation, all complaints referred to LeO would have been put in a queue waiting to be assessed. Today, over half of complaints are resolved through early resolution and customers can expect to have their cases resolved within an average of 60 days.

Following a consultation process in 2021, new Scheme Rules were introduced on 1 April 2023. These rules were designed to enable the LeO to further improve the customers’ experience by increasing efficiency and removing obstacles to resolving complaints, helping to ensure they are able to give an outcome at the earliest possible stage. So far in 2023/24 44% of all cases have been resolved within 90 days. In 2021/22 80% were taking more than 180 days.

Further steps the LeO has taken to improve its efficiency, and in turn improve customers’ experience, are outlined in the OLC’s most recent annual report and accounts, draft strategy and business plan, published at https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/who-we-are/corporate-publications/. These include a focus improving the quality of legal providers’ own complaints handling, as one way of helping address rising demand for LeO’s service.

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