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Dr Richard Kirkham appointed to Validation Committee

Donal Galligan
Donal Galligan
Chief Executive, OA
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The OA Board has appointed Dr Richard Kirkham to the Association’s Validation Committee following a public call for expressions of interest.

The Validation Committee, which has a majority of independent members, scrutinises both applications for membership and the re-validation of existing members.

Richard, who is Senior Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Sheffield, is well known for his research on the ombudsman institution. His work includes authoring The Ombudsman Enterprise and Administrative Justice, editing The Research Handbook on the Ombudsman, and also editing a section of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law for over 15 years. As part of his recent Nuffield Foundation funded project, Richard also collaborated with the OA to help produce the Case Law database, which for the first time collates in one place all the case law about the OA’s members.

Anthony Arter, Chair of the Association, said: “I’m delighted that we have appointed someone with such deep knowledge of the ombudsman sector. It is essential that any organisation that uses the term ‘ombudsman’ meets the high bar that our criteria sets – and vital that this criteria is applied by those with an independent and critical mind-set to ensure that the high standards we expect are maintained by our members”.

Richard commented, “Throughout my research I have focused on the performance, transparency, and accountability of ombudsman schemes. The OA has an important role to play in maintaining the integrity of the sector and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to further that as an Independent Member of the OA’s Validation Committee”.

The vacancy on the Validation Committee arose after Margaret Doyle stepped down after a decade on the Committee. Margaret, an independent mediator and Visiting Research Fellow with the UK Administrative Justice Institute, has had a long career in administrative justice as an academic and independent complaints reviewer.

Rob Behrens, Vice-Chair of the OA and Chair of the Validation Committee, said: “The OA are hugely indebted to Margaret for her work on the Validation Committee over the past decade. Margaret has helped shape the development of best practice in both the public and private sectors, resolutely striving for fair and effective redress systems for all.”

At her last meeting of the Validation Committee in November, Margaret commented, “There is still a need to answer the question, ‘what is an ombud for?’, ‘what does it look and feel like?’ An ombud is not a widget factory for complaints but an inquisitorial investigator, with a commitment to equality and providing feedback to organisations to improve services.”

Reflecting on her time on the Committee, Margaret noted, “Alongside other developments I’m particularly pleased that in recent years we have been successful in nudging OA members to adopt gender neutral language in their articles, policies and documents.”


1. The Association’s Validation Committee scrutinises both applications for membership and the 5-yearly re-validation of existing members against our membership criteria. The Validation Committee has a majority of independent members who are appointed via an open recruitment process for their knowledge and expertise of the ombudsman sector.

2. The other two Independent Members of the Validation Committee are Dr Chris Gill, Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Glasgow, and Kate Wellington, Chief Executive of the Costs Lawyer Standards Board.

3. The Validation Committee is currently chaired by Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman and Vice-Chair of the OA. Felicity Mitchell, the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, also sits on the Committee.

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