The Housing Ombudsman has launched a consultation on the service’s Corporate Plan for 2022-25, which it says will reinforce the changing role and importance of complaint handling.
The service said this was “set within the context of an unprecedented increase in the volume of casework and major change in the social housing sector”.
The Ombudsman reported that it had experienced significant increases in demand with a 139% increase in enquiries and complaints in the year to date compared with 2020-21, plus a 65% increase in cases for formal investigation.
“Externally, the implementation of the Social Housing White Paper and future policy changes to improve access to complaints are likely to sustain increasing volumes of casework,” it added.
The Ombudsman said the Corporate Plan aimed to respond to this increase in complaints and set out ways the organisation would work with the sector to promote fairness through its investigations, strengthen complaint handling, encourage learning to improve services and potentially prevent complaints.
The key elements of the plan are to:
- Increase awareness of the Ombudsman’s role, together with improving access to the service for those facing barriers.
- Extend fairness through high-quality, inquisitorial and impartial investigations to establish if there was service failure with robust remedies and undertake thematic inquiries into systemic issues.
- Use proactive interventions to improve landlords’ complaint handling and support earlier, local resolution for the benefit of all residents.
- Establish a Centre for Learning to promote complaint handling excellence among social landlords by using insight from the Ombudsman’s casework, data and intelligence.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “Social housing is a unique sector that deserves an independent, proactive and visible Ombudsman to support it. We believe this values-driven plan delivers that.
“The Ombudsman is an advocate for fairness and our work provides valuable lessons for the sector. Only by improving service delivery and complaint handling at a local level will we see lower demand for our service. We hope our emphasis in this plan on supporting landlords to resolve more complaints themselves will help to achieve this over time. Effective complaint handling and learning when things go wrong are an integral part of a healthy resident-landlord relationship and service development.”
Andrea Keenoy, Chief Operating Officer, said: “This plan also provides an opportunity for continuous improvement of our service through increased digitisation and by investing in the development of new and existing staff to make us an employer of choice.
“I am grateful to the many landlords and members of our Resident Panel that engaged with us in developing the plan and would encourage landlords, residents and organisations in the social housing sector to give their views through this consultation.”
The consultation, which can be viewed here, closes on 12 November 2021.