Housing Ombudsman launches consultations for improved service

The Housing Ombudsman Service has launched two consultations this week. They relate to its Business Plan 2020/21 and also proposed revisions to the Housing Ombudsman Scheme. Full details, including how to respond to the consultations, can be accessed here.

The Housing Ombudsman Service has commented that the consultations mark an important stage in developing their service so that it can provide faster, effective redress for the 5 million households who can access it. 

In summary, on the business plan the Housing Ombudsman Service are:

  • 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 its sector development and engagement work to ensure their knowledge and experience is used to improve complaint handling across the sector;
  • Promoting the quality of its decision-making through a new performance indicator on quality control; 
  • Publishing more of its data to increase transparency, including quarterly casework and performance reports;
  • Appointing an independent examiner of complaints against us and publishing their first report in 2020-21.

Delivering a better service will require additional resource; the service is currently operating at a higher cost than the subscription rate by using excess 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.  This allows the Housing Ombudsman Service and landlords to plan ahead better, and it will confirm the rate either at, or below, the cap when the final plan is published next year. 

On the Scheme, this follows the direction of travel set out in the Housing Ombudsman Service’s corporate plan and it is proposing new powers to:

  • Ensure evidence is provided to the Service in a timely manner, to support the faster resolution of complaints.  They estimate 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. Any systemic failing found will be referred to the Regulator.

If you have any views on the Housing Ombudsman consultations that you’d like to share with us, please get in touch.