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The Catalan Ombudsman is reviewed by other ombudsmen and makes public the results

26/06/2020

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The review process consisted of the evaluation by other ombudsmen of the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution, the effectiveness of the basic processes and the quality of the services

The methodology used has been based on the guidelines established by the International Ombudsman Institute

The process has ended with the publication of a report that summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the institution

Positive and relevant elements initiated during the current term have been highlighted, such as the ability to address new and mainly social issues or those related to the most vulnerable people

The Catalan Ombudsman has undergone a review of its working methods through a methodology called peer review. This process has consisted of the evaluation by other ombudsmen of the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution, the effectiveness of the basic processes, the quality of the services offered, and good practices in case management. according to accepted criteria of what makes a good ombudsman service. The evaluation process has ended with the issuance of a report diagnosing the state of the institution and also includes some recommendations.

The approach adopted for this peer review is in line with the draft IOI Guidelines on conducting peer reviews. The Ombudsman of Catalonia contacted the IOI requesting a peer review so a review panel was chosen. The panel was formed by Rob Behrens CBE, the UK Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Catherine De Bruecker, Belgium Federal Ombudsman, and two other members of their institutions. The panel members were specifically chosen in light of their long experience serving in European Ombudsman institutions, their experience of peer reviews and in IOI Board.

In line with the IOI peer review approach, the review was undertaken both remotely, through analysis of key documentation relating to the service, and in person, via a visit to the Ombudsman’s offices in Barcelona on 20th January 2020.

During the visit, the panel received a number of presentations from senior staff about the Catalan Ombudsman. Additionally, bilateral meetings took place between the panel and staff with functional responsibilities.  This included a meeting between the panel and Ombudsman staff at all levels held in private with the organisation’s leadership absent. The panel also received a briefing from an academic specialist in constitutional law. The panel was given opportunities to view casework and monographic reports.

The review has tackled four areas: mandate and operation, citizen accessibility and redress, effectiveness and efficiency, and leadership, professionalism and human resource management. Within the framework of this four areas the panel has made a number of suggestions for incremental change and improvement.

In terms of mandate: it should be strengthened the relationship with the Spanish National Ombudsman, through either a working protocol or amended legislation. The panel recognises that this matter is not simple and has been the subject of extensive litigation. The process also culminated in highlighting positive and relevant elements initiated during the current term, such as the ability to address new issues and of a mainly social nature or related to the most vulnerable people, the strong international leadership carried out by the Catalan Ombudsman or the efficiency with which the projects have been undertaken, with figures comparable to those of other European offices.

In terms of citizen accessibility and redress, the use of alternative mechanisms to formal complaint resolutions should be investigated. Alternative dispute resolution techniques, such as mediation. It would also be worthwhile to establish a follow-up process of monographic reports in order to assess its direct impact on improving public services and defending human rights.

In terms of efficiency and effectiveness, the Catalan Ombudsman should review investment in the number of general staff available to support advisers undertaking technical analysis. Improvements in this space could have a positive impact on the quality of investigations and processing speeds The panel felt that in addition to existing meetings with bodies under investigation, it would be worthwhile for the Catalan Ombudsman to develop new models of cooperation with administration such as visits to complaint teams in departments and services or bilateral meetings with case workers. This would allow the leadership of the Ombudsman to see how complaints are being handled in the organisations being investigated, and to ascertain how improvements could be made to service response times for information.

In terms of leadership, it suggests using an annual confidential staff survey to gauge staff feedback on significant issues. Finally, in terms of work/life balance, the Office should examine whether more could be done in terms of homeworking and flexible working.

The fact is that the current ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, is at the end of his second term and, therefore, this independent evaluation of the operating model of the institution can be a good tool that will surely help to assess operation and accountability.

Interview Radio Ombudsman (PSHO)

The Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, was invited to the interview space led by the United Kingdom's Ombudsman, Rob Behrens. The interview reviewed the personal and professional career of the Catalan Ombudsman, with special reference to his training and influences, and how these were useful to him in the task of defending human rights.

Special mention is also made of the peer review, launched to help improve the operation of the institution, to be more open to people and their grievances, to make resources more efficient, and to address in a deeper and more efficient way problems of society, such as those generated by the health system or the care of people. The Catalan Ombudsman stated that "a colleague can teach you a lot to improve".

During the interview, he tackled issues related to the international work carried out by the Catalan Ombudsman within the International Ombudsman Institute, or relations with the Council of Europe, and emphasized the importance of the Principles of Venice, which have been drawn up with the aim of being an international benchmark in terms of the guidelines that states must follow to protect ombudsman institutions.

Link to the interview: https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/news-and-blog/radio-ombudsman-podcast

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The Catalan Ombudsman will reopen its doors on 15 June

12/06/2020

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The Catalan Ombudsman reopens the doors of the headquarters, Passeig Lluís Companys, 7, on June 15, 2020 with a new schedule.

Front office hours are from 8.30 am to 2 pm, Monday to Friday.

On the other hand, the telephone service hours are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday.

For better service, it is recommended to request an appointment by calling 900 124 124 or 933 018 075

We appreciate your cooperation and caution in continuing to comply with the safety measures established by the health authorities.

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Statement from the Catalan Ombudsman on the prevention of coronavirus spreading in prisons of Catalonia

03/04/2020

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The Catalan Ombudsman has addressed the Prime Minister of the Government of Catalonia and the Catalan Minister of Justice

As announced on March 26th, the Catalan Ombudsman initiated an ex officio action to analyse the management of the crisis caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus and its incidence in all prisons of the Administration of the Government of Catalonia.

On that occasion, the Ombudsman echoed the official statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, calling on governments around the world to reduce the number of people deprived of liberty, in particular those condemned for political reasons or for expressing critical ideas or dissent. Simultaneously, the international mechanisms for overseeing centres of deprivation of liberty (UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, Council of Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe) recommended reducing the prison population and the search for alternatives to deprivation of liberty.

Subsequently, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, described this pandemic as the "worst crisis since World War II" and called for extraordinary measures to address it, while the European Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, called for the release of migrants deprived of liberty in detention centres.

Most recently, in a note released yesterday, Boris Cilevics, the Parliamentary Assembly Rapporteur for the Council of Europe, supported the measures taken by many countries to release people deprived of liberty who do not pose any risk to society and, in particular, he referred to inmates with a political profile, in the following terms: 

“Prisoners with political backgrounds, such as the Catalan politicians convicted for their role in the unconstitutional referendum in October 2017, or the Turkish parliamentarians, mayors and other politicians imprisoned for speeches made in the exercise of their mandate, should certainly benefit from such measures”. 

In accordance with these pronouncements, the Catalan Ombudsman urges the prison administration to speed up the actions to release, as far as possible, the largest number of inmates in prisons, in order to minimize risk of SARS-CoV2 virus infections and of helping prevent the collapse of the National Health System.

In this sense, the Catalan Ombudsman recommends the progression to the third degree of prison treatment for all people classified under ordinary regime who enjoy the mode of life provided for in article 100.2 of the Penitentiary Regulation, provided their capacity to carry a regime of life in semi-freedom. Inmates in this situation must have a low profile of danger and a low risk of criminal recidivism and good behaviour; family or social external support to ensure the obligation of home lockdown, and be prepared to maintain other control mechanisms.

This measure should be adopted in a generalized manner and without any form of discrimination among inmates who meet these requirements, so, in accordance with what Cilevics is asking, and in line with what Michelle Bachelet stated, should benefit the nine people convicted by Supreme Court judgment 459/2019.

To enable release and subsequent home lockdown, the progression to the third degree regime could be adopted under the mode of life provided for in article 86.4 of the Penitentiary Regulation, in its non-telematic form, as the Catalan Department of Justice is applying to more than half of the third-degree inmates in the current context of fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. The acceptance of this measure would be favoured by the principle of flexibility, which must be present during the entire period of execution of the sentence of deprivation of liberty, and would be temporary for the duration of the exceptional situation in which we are living.

For this reason, the Catalan Ombudsman is addressing the President of the Government of Catalonia, Quim Torra, and the Catalan Minister of Justice, Esther Capella, to learn about the Catalan Government's action in this matter and if there are instructions from other authorities in a different way.

Barcelona, 3rdApril 2020

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The Catalan Ombudsman calls on the best interest of children and adolescents in all measures taken to manage the health crisis of COVID-19

27/03/2020

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The institution issues recommendations to all administrations that highlight specific care for children, especially the most vulnerable

It does not question the measures taken so far, based on scientific and technical knowledge, and with the urgency required to respond to the health crisis, without immediate precedents

It calls for the authorities to communicate and explain to the children and adolescents the decisions taken, in the most accessible ways, in a language that is understandable and adapted to different ages and needs

It requests that lockdown measures be adjusted in a prudent but specific manner so that children and adolescents can carry out some activity or physical exercise outdoors, while maintaining the distances of security and according to age and the needs of the child

Measures of work flexibility and teleworking should not hinder the right of children to receive appropriate care from caregivers and should not constitute double discrimination for women

The Catalan Ombudsman has issued a resolution so that the rights of children and adolescents are highlighted in the management of this crisis, without immediate precedents, and that, to the extent possible, their specific needs be addressed, while prevailing also the best interest of the child.

In this regard, the Ombudsman wishes to mention, as good practices, the examples of the Prime Ministers of Canada and Norway, who have given press conferences to children and adolescents in their countries and have collected contributions. The Ombudsman also considered the broadcast of the Catalan Infok program very positive, in which some children asked questions to the prime minister of the Government of Catalonia regarding the crisis.

On the other hand, and despite the eminence of a health crisis in health, little has been said about the right of children and adolescents to health, beyond their role as transmitters of the disease for the rest of the population.

Most of the published information regarding the effects of the disease on children and adolescents indicates that they are not widely affected by it or that it is not particularly virulent among children and adolescents, even among infants. In fact, the figures published by the Spanish Ministry of Health's Alerts and Health Emergencies Coordination Centre on March 22, 2020, show that only one infant died from 10 to 19 years, although there were 34 children from 0 to 9 years old, one of them to the ICU, and 15 adolescents from 10 to 19 years old hospitalized by COVID-19.

However, the WHO also qualifies children as a risk population. The health of children and adolescents must be protected as a priority care group, focusing on the most vulnerable and preserving the differentiated and habitual care of the paediatric population.

Recommendations and paediatric advice for addressing impacts on the emotional health and comprehensive development of children and adolescents during lockdown should be widely disseminated through the media.

The Catalan Ombudsman considers that specific needs of movement and outdoor contact of children and adolescents, depending on their personal circumstances and age, must be assessed when predicting possible exceptions if the lockdown is extended in time, and in that sense it calls for the appropriate administrations to assess them.

With regard to the right to equitable education, the Catalan Department of Education's commitment to ensuring continuity of learning in conditions of inclusion and without discrimination for socio-economic reasons is highly valued.

However, it is very important that the student's accompaniment and follow-up are ensured, beyond problems related to formal learning due to technological reasons, lack of adaptation of tools or socio-cultural limitations, especially students in situations of risk of drop out of school, suffering all kinds of violence and situations of unprotection.

In this sense, the Catalan Ombudsman emphasizes the role of the school, as well as of the unregulated and leisure activities, as an institution of social cohesion, protection and coexistence, and the need for this task to be continued even further, more measured in the lockdown situation, in conjunction with social and health services.

As a particularly vulnerable group, and given that, due to security and protection in the wake of the crisis, some specialized services have been closed, the Catalan Ombudsman demands that the assistance and accompaniment of children and adolescents with disabilities’ be guaranteed. 

With regard to institutionalized children and adolescents, both in centres of the protection system and in juvenile centres, due to their increased risk of contagion in everyday life, precautions and clear protocols for the protection of staff and children and adolescents should be implemented.

The Catalan Ombudsman welcomes the efforts made by the Catalan Department of Education to reduce the digital gap between families and schools. However, and understanding that this effort will endure over time after the crisis, it raises the need to study the risks of using digital tools that are not our own when it comes to ensuring security in use and data protection, and the suitability of having a digital tool system of its own, accessible and adapted to everyone.

Specific measures of emotional and psychological accompaniment for children and adolescents also need to be envisaged, which, given the lockdown circumstances and emotional damage previously experienced, may present a higher risk of emotional health and stability issues.

All of these important public health and safety measures should be sought to interfere with as little as possible in the day-to-day activities of children and adolescents who are already in care centres instead of family homes.

The Catalan Ombudsman wants to emphasize the need to socially assess the task of caring for children and adolescents, at a time when the institutional and professional networks that cover part of this function have stopped providing this service.

In particular, it wants to ensure that measures of work flexibilization and teleworking do not invisible the right of children to receive appropriate care by caregivers, and also that these measures do not constitute a double discrimination for women, mainly due to the gender bias already present in the assumption of domestic and care tasks, but also for certain family settings, single-parent families, separated, with some type of disability, parents who have the disease, etc.

Public administrations, taking advantage of the circumstances and collective social awareness existing in the fight to control the spread of the disease, must also make an effort on social and economic responsibility in the care of dependent people and children, so that it becomes visible and valued through time and monetization.

Finally, there are groups of children and adolescents who deserve special attention right now. These are children and adolescents who are already suffering a violation of their rights, such as impoverished and precarious children, victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, migrants without family referrals, former fostered teenagers who have no stable resource, victims of trafficking, among many other situations that require urgent social intervention.

For this reason, the Catalan Ombudsman wants to highlight that the current health crisis is also a situation of social emergency and, in this regard, the social services provided for this purpose, with an extraordinary social fund and with the appropriate measures of security, should continue to cope with the situations of risk already detected and making it possible to detect suffering situations that may be invisible in confined homes across Catalonia.

The Ombudsman forwarded these recommendations, aimed at preserving the rights of children, to the departments of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, Health, Education and Justice of the Government of Catalonia, and also to the authorities responsible in the Spanish Government.

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Rafael Ribó, Catalan Ombudsman, has tested positive for coronavirus

15/03/2020

Ribó had fever and mild respiratory symptoms. In order to meet the criteria, a PCR was performed that tested positive. The Catalan Ombudsman is currently in home insulation and an epidemiological survey is being performed to determine possible contacts.

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