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Published on June 3, 2024 News

The Ombudsman has been successful in correcting the authorities’ mistakes and in promoting systemic changes. He summarises his work in 2023 in the annual report

Stanislav Křeček and Vít Alexander Schorm have presented the Annual Report of their office for the year 2023. They welcomed the fact that ministries and authorities had successfully used the Ombudsman’s findings to correct maladministration in individual cases and to change inappropriate practices. On the other hand, they also drew attention to some topics that remained open, such as the transformation of large institutions for people with disabilities and, above all, the upcoming establishment of a children’s ombudsman.

“Usually, our reports published throughout the year describe various issues we have identified. I would like to stress, however, that the individual errors committed by authorities represent only one side of the coin. On the other side is the fact that in 97% of cases, the authorities eventually corrected the maladministration we discovered. And that figure gives one hope for the future,” said the Ombudsman, Stanislav Křeček.

He also mentioned several specific cases where he had persuaded the authorities to change their approach last year. The Ombudsman traditionally deals with the largest numbers of complaints in the area of social security; last year, he addressed over 1 400 complaints in this field. For example, he helped a woman obtain an additional eight hundred thousand crowns of her disability pension, together with a significant increase in the amount she was entitled to – based on the Ombudsman’s report, the Czech Social Security Administration retroactively recognised the eligibility of the period of her studies (page 69 of the Annual Report).

Similarly, the Ombudsman’s intervention also helped, for example, the family of a boy with autism who had been seeking for years to move a temporary bus stop away from the windows of their house (page 79 of the Annual Report).

“I am most pleased when we help people with specific problems and this eventually results in a systemic change. This was the case, for example, with parents being able to stay with their children in hospital. The lack of consistency among healthcare facilities in this regard had led to misunderstandings and conflicts between healthcare professionals and parents. After years of discussions the Ministry of Health issued a methodology last year, unifying the rules for hospitals,” said the Deputy Ombudsman, Vít Alexander Schorm, and added that lawyers from the Public Defender’s Office actively co-operated in the preparation of the methodology (page 54 of the Annual Report).

Conservationists now also benefit from uniform rules of procedure established thanks to two inquiries by the Ombudsman into the circumstances of the demolition of historic buildings in Prague and Brno. And the same can be said, for instance, of the staff of construction authorities, since they will also be following the new methodology of the Heritage Inspectorate of the Ministry of Culture for assessing the cultural and historical values of buildings that are not subject to heritage protection (page 90 of the Annual Report). In response to the Ombudsman’s inquiry, the Ministry of Culture has also promised to discuss with the Ministry of Regional Development the options for better enforcement of provisional protection for buildings which are still being evaluated in terms of heritage protection.

The Ombudsman completed seven surveys in 2023. He examined the accessibility of buildings, both in terms of construction law (page 84 of the Annual Report) and based on the experience of people with disabilities (page 128 of the Annual Report). He also dealt with mothers’ experience in the area of employment (page 121 of the Annual Report), children’s contact with their imprisoned parents (page 56 of the Annual Report), issues surrounding the protection of animals against cruelty (page 93 of the Annual Report), the regulation of odorous substances (page 92 of the Annual Report), the provision of housing for people from vulnerable groups (page 123 of the Annual Report), and the provision of health support to children in schools (page 122 of the Annual Report).

“We tried to determine what stood in the way of faster and more effective deinstitutionalisation and the development of community social services. Major obstacles in this regard include, for example, the low public awareness of what living in an institution really means. This then translates into low and wavering political will for change,” said the Deputy Ombudsman in summary of a survey on deinstitutionalisation, noting that one of the key long-term topics was the right of people with disabilities to live independently in the community.

According to both officials, the biggest challenge to face the Ombudsman’s office in 2024 is the upcoming establishment of children’s ombudsman and the transformation of the Public Defender of Rights into a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). An amendment to the Public Defender of Rights Act that would allow for both changes received government support in early April. “We participated in the preparation of the amendment in the working group of the Minister for Legislation. Its adoption and the establishment of a children's ombudsman and the so-called NHRI would represent an important step in strengthening the protection not only of children’s rights, but of human rights in general,” concluded Ombudsman Stanislav Křeček.



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