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Housing Ombudsman issues consultation on improvements to the service 31/10/2019 Labelled as Consultation

When we met recently with the new Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway, he mentioned plans to consult on the Service's new business plan for 2020-21 and revisions to the Housing Ombudsman Scheme. 


The Housing Ombudsman Service has now published both documents for consultation and says that together they mark an important stage in developing the Housing Ombudsman Service so that it can provide faster, effective redress for the 5 million households who can access it. 


The consultations are open for 8 weeks until 20 December 2019.


In summary, on the business plan the Housing Ombudsman is:


  • Committing to a step-change in determination times over the next two years with an average of 4-5 months in 2020-21 and 3-4 months in 2021-22.  These would be the fastest average determination times on record for the service;
  • Expanding the Service's sector development and engagement work to ensure that the Housing Ombudsman Service knowledge and experience is used to improve complaints handling across the sector;
  • Promoting the quality of decision-making through a new performance indicator on quality control; 
  • Publishing more data to increase transparency, including quarterly casework and performance reports;
  • Appointing an independent examiner of complaints against the Housing Ombudsman Service and publishing their first report in 2020-21.


Delivering a better service will require additional resource; The Housing Ombudsman Service is currently operating at a higher cost than the subscription rate by using financial reserves. The subscription rate has been fixed for three years, despite a 17 per cent year-on-year increase in casework. This business plan therefore proposes a maximum subscription rate of £2.16 per home for the next two years. The rate will be confirmed at, or below, the cap when the final plan is published next year. 


Turning to the Housing Ombudsman's proposals for revisions to the Scheme, this follows the direction of travel set out in The Service's corporate plan and proposes new powers to:


  • Ensure evidence is provided by landlords to the Housing Ombudsman in a timely manner, to support the faster resolution of complaints. The Housing Ombudsman estimates that over 25 per cent of cases do not have evidence provided by the landlord on the first request;
  • Increase consistency of practice across landlords and ensure that residents know what to expect when a complaint is made, irrespective of their landlord by developing, with stakeholders, a complaint handling best practice;
  • Help residents whose complaints have got stuck in the process by issuing a new determination of complaint handling failure and an order to provide a resident with an outcome, improving accessibility and speeding up redress for residents;
  • Investigate beyond an initial complaint to establish whether any evidence of service failure is indicative of systemic failing and ensuring that any systemic failing found will be referred to the Regulator.


The proposals will have implications for local authority landlords and ARCH is encouraging local authorities to respond directly to the consultation and provide feedback to ARCH on these proposals to help inform an ARCH response. 

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