Written evidence submitted by Mr Robert Wilson [RSH 014]
Status — Tenant East Riding of Yorkshire Council .
I wish to submit the following observations in relation to one area of the Inquiry.
“ How clearly defined are the roles of the Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman “.
The Problem .
Interrogating the Government Website does enable a complainant to identify which Ombudsman to contact appropriate to the subject matter of the complaint . However from a users point of view and based on recent personal experience, problems occur when the complaint was either referred to the wrong service or the complaint was about a number of issues .
The Landlord is obliged to inform the complainant of their right to refer a complaint eventually to the Ombudsman if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation . In my case I received standard advice to contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman even though the complaint related to a Housing Tenancy Agreement issue . Had I not been aware of the different roles and responsibilities of the respective Ombudsman services I would have referred my complaint to the wrong service . However in reality most complainants would take for granted the correctness of advise from the Landlord . If they find this not to be the case then it must adds to their dissatisfaction and further sour their relationship with the Landlord.
Recently a fellow tenant referred a complaint to the Housing Ombudsman as advised by the Council , only to be told by the Triage team 3 weeks later that the complaint did not fall within its remit and “ could “ be a mater for the Regulator to consider . The Tenant then had to start again by submitting the case to the Regulator and wait 2 weeks to be told it would be investigated. All this added to the already lengthy timescales waiting for a determination .
We both have had experience of contacting the Local Government or Housing Ombudsman or the Regulator for informal advice as to which of them to refer a complaint, the advise has been to submit the complaint first for a decision .
In the Complaint Handling Code , published July 2020 reference is made to Landlords providing easy access to their complaints procedure , including the right to access the Housing Ombudsman Service . From this, one has to assume all complaints about a R S L are dealt with by the Housing Ombudsman which is not necessarily the case . In my view , easy and clear access to an appropriate appeal process is of equal importance if unnecessary delays and confusion are to be avoided.
The experience I and my fellow tenant have had is if a complaint is multifaceted and doesn’t fall within one Departments clear remit then they struggle to decide whose responsibility it is to consider the matter . The complainant is then left to approach each service separately until one accepts the case or informs the tenant to seek other redress . The frustration caused must have a detrimental effect and influence on the customers attitude towards progressing a formal complaint .
There are two options we would suggest for consideration to overcome the problem .
The Landlord takes responsibility for deciding which Ombudsman Service or Regular appropriate for consideration of the complaint should the complainant wish to take the matter further .
Rather than having a separate Triage Team in each Department , one Central Complaint Handling Hub is established . Its responsibility would be to carry out an initial assessment on the validity of the complaint and which Ombudsman should investigate the matter or if it should be referred to the Regulator . The Hub would then monitor progress on the complaint and act as a single point of contact for the complainant. The added advantages would be consistency and eliminate RSLs incorrectly advising Tenants . It is a proven fact that a heigh proposition of social housing tenants do not either have internet access or the necessary skill to search or indeed understand the often technical advice on websites . A Hub would eliminate the need for the complainant to search websites for information .
END OF SUBMISSION.