Research Handbook on the Ombudsman
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Research Handbook on the Ombudsman

Edited by Marc Hertogh and Richard Kirkham

The public sector ombudsman has become one of the most important administrative justice institutions in many countries around the world. This international and interdisciplinary Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to discuss the state-of-the-art of ombudsman research. It uses new empirical studies and competing theoretical explanations to critically examine important aspects of the ombudsman’s work. This comprehensive Handbook is of value to academics designing future ombudsman studies and practitioners and policymakers in understanding the future challenges of the ombudsman.
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Chapter 14: The profile of complainants: how to overcome the ‘Matthew effect’?

Bernard Hubeau


The ambition to be accessible and to reach a very broad audience, especially to vulnerable or minority groups with problematic characteristics, is often more implicit than explicit. Not a lot of research has been done in the field of the socio-economic profile. Because the scope of the research is rather limited and unique, it is very difficult and risky to compare the results. We will refer to some studies, amongst other conducted in different countries from the early 1980s onwards, as well as annual reports. Almost all the studies agree on one general conclusion. The profile of complainant is mostly a high or middle-class one, rather than a profile of more vulnerable persons. This is called the ‘Matthew effect’. Finally, we develop some ideas about how to improve the accessibility in more innovative ways and suggest ways to improve the search for data about the profiles of complainants.

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