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The first ombudsman scheme in these islands, the UK Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Parliamentary Ombudsman), was created in 1967. Over the next decade, other public-sector ombudsman were appointed so that by the late 1970s there were parliamentary, health, and local government ombudsman services in each country of the United Kingdom. In 1981 the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau, the first private sector ombudsman scheme in the UK, was established and subsequently further private sector schemes were also set up. By 1984 the Office of the Ombudsman was established in the Republic of Ireland.

In 1989 an informal meeting of several UK public and private sector ombudsman offices took place to discuss common ground. In 1991 the first joint conference of UK ombudsman from both the public and private sectors was held, at which it was agreed to set up an association for ombudsman, their staff, and other organisations and individuals, such as voluntary bodies and academics interested in the work of ombudsman offices. 

The Association came into being in April 1993 as the 'United Kingdom Ombudsman Association' and became the 'British and Irish Ombudsman Association' when membership was extended to include ombudsman offices from the Republic of Ireland in 1994.

In the 1990s and 2000s further ombudsman offices were established not only in the UK and Ireland but also in the British Overseas Territories, starting with the Office of the Complaints Commissioner in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1994. In 2000 the geographic scope of the Association was expanded to cover the British Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories, and since then the ombudsman concept has spread to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

To celebrate our 25th anniversary in 2018 a timeline was created setting out the brief history of the Association.

1993 - 2018 Timeline