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The Housing Ombudsman’s quarterly report and new guidance for governing bodies

Posted: 13/10/2021

In its latest quarterly report, the Housing Ombudsman reported that 23 complaints handling failure orders had been issued between April and June 2021. Whilst in 17 of these cases the landlords had since complied with the orders, there has been non-compliance with six orders (concerning five providers) and the Ombudsman confirmed it is investigating these providers further.

Alongside the publication of this latest quarterly report, which marks one year since the launch of the new Complaint Handling Code in July 2020, the Housing Ombudsman has also issued new guidance for governing bodies of landlords on the effective involvement of board members and councillors in complaint handling. It emphasises that board members and councillors have an important role in “promoting a positive complaints culture within their organisations”. We know there is an increased focus on culture following on from the publication of the new National Housing Federation Code of Governance 2020; our Gemma Bell discussed the risks of a poor culture with Mick Warner, former Director at the Regulator of Social Housing, in exploring lessons learned from regulatory judgments.

The new best practice guidance outlines the expectations of governing bodies and sets out how complaint information can help to improve service delivery. It stresses the role of the complaints process as performing a strategic role and providing “an essential source of intelligence on evolving risks and performance”. The guidance also points out that effective complaints handling can help bolster organisations’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials, a particular area of focus for the sector.

The guidance is split into eight sections, including a refresher on the Housing Ombudsman’s powers and the Complaints Handling Code. Key points also include:

  • using complaints as a barometer to help manage risks, improve resident engagement, reduce the cost of failure and evidence compliance, particularly in regard to:
    • achieving the organisation’s mission;
    • resident focus;
    • equality diversity and inclusion; and
    • Risk management;
  • Having a positive complaints culture – with governing bodies having an important role in embedding a learning culture that manages risk, has robust learning processes in place and where service improvements are being implemented. The guidance goes on to say that governing bodies can support that culture through compliance, awareness and learning; and
  • governance reporting – with governing bodies understanding that complaints reporting can provide essential insights. Reporting can encompass complaints performance reporting, updates on actions resulting from complaints, resident feedback, horizon scanning and consideration of the Housing Ombudsman’s annual landlord performance reports.

The guidance includes a useful checklist of good questions for board members and councillors to ask to support, challenge and seek assurance from executive teams on their organisation’s performance, as well as a list of useful tools and links.

You can also read our in relation to the Housing Ombudsman’s New Complaint Handling Code. Our also discussed the Housing Ombudsman’s publication of its decisions and investigation reports.

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