Welcome to our consultation

Introduction

Homes are about lives and communities, so when something goes wrong it is essential to put it right. For five million households, the Housing Ombudsman Service provides redress when an issue remains unresolved. Our service is available to every single social tenant in England; as well as many leaseholders and some private renters whose landlords are voluntary members. 

Our service is changing – it is becoming faster, more accessible and open.  From April 2020 we will introduce a new, more efficient operating model. Our goal is to deliver a step-change in providing timely, effective and high-quality redress. 

These changes are being made with a talented team and from a strong starting point. In 2018-19, we issued 29 per cent more determinations than in the previous year and reduced the annual average determination time to 6.7 months compared with 8 months in 2017-18 – our largest in-year reduction. 

We are focused on reducing the time taken to determine cases; this business plan proposes our fastest average determination rate on record. We are planning to achieve this in two stages, with an average time of 4-5 months in 2020-21, moving to an average of 3-4 months in 2021-22 at the end of the change programme – effectively half our current determination rate.

There are two challenges to realising this ambition. Firstly any unexpected rise in complaint volumes – we have experienced average year-on-year increases of 17 per cent across the last five years the service. While this is challenging enough, the increase in 2018-19 alone was 26 per cent. Secondly delays in providing evidence to the Ombudsman. This can be a significant issue; we estimate that one-in-four cases do not have the information provided on the first request. Our plan sets out how we propose working with landlords to address this issue when it occurs and working more widely with them to improve complaint handling where necessary.

Our new operating model will bring many other benefits. We want to improve the resident’s experience of our service and make it more open and accessible to them. We want to support the resolution of more disputes at a local level, in turn reducing demand on our formal service. We will support landlords by sharing our expertise and being active when we see something going wrong. We will have a strong focus on producing high-quality decisions. These improvements require more resources but the cost of unresolved complaints is personal as well as financial. 

Your comments are important to us. The draft business plan sets out new approaches to how we handle casework in order to provide faster, effective redress; the feedback we have received in previous consultations has helped us to shape this thinking.   

We firmly believe this plan will produce a more positive climate for redress, and we welcome your comments.

The full details of our plans are set out in the consultation paper. We are seeking your feedback on five questions in this survey. 

The consultation is open until 5pm on Friday 6 December 2019.

Thank you for participating.

Richard Blakeway

Housing Ombudsman

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