The OFMDFM committee received a briefing from departmental officials on the September monitoring round on 15 September 2010.
Ray McCaffrey from the assembly's research unit briefed the committee on proposed legislation to provide a for a public services ombudsman.
He said that under the current proposals the ombudsman must be in receipt of a complaint before he can investigate an issue. If the ombudsman had the power to initiate investigations himself this would be out of step with rest of UK, but it was common in other countries for ombudsmen to act under their own initiative. In Northern Ireland the children's commissioner, human rights commission and equality commission did have powers to launch investigations without receiving a complaint.
Jackie Kerr, an OFMDFM official, explained that commissioners were involved with rights issues whilst the ombudsman was tasked with uncovering maladministration.
The committee heard from OFMDFM officials on the Commissioner for Older People Bill. It was explained that there was no current legislation to address discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services for older people.
One example was doorstep loans. There had been a 108% rise in doorstep loans aimed at vulnerable people including older people in recent years. These loans are legal. Anecdotal evidence shows a £300 doorstep loan attract a 400 percent apr rate of interest. This was one example of an issue that could be addressed by the commissioner