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Housing Ombudsman publishes 'systemic framework' covering how it will deal with wider issues beyond individual disputes

The Housing Ombudsman has published its new ‘systemic framework’ setting out how it will look beyond individual disputes to identify key issues that impact on residents and landlords’ services.

It said learning would be shared with the sector to promote good practice and support a positive complaint handing culture. “The thousands of complaints we handle each year will provide the basis for identifying potential issues, together with other indicators from regular research and relevant external information.”

The Ombudsman said its approach on systemic issues would aim to identify:

  • failures in complaint handling, where further work could support earlier resolution of disputes
  • service failures, where further investigation into underpinning policies, procedures or approach could prevent service failure reoccurrence
  • reoccurring issues across several landlords where further investigation could promote greater understanding and sharing of best practice.

Where a possible systemic issue is identified, it may lead to further investigation and could result in a range of outcomes from recommendations for an individual landlord to publishing a thematic report on the learning identified that could be applied across the sector.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “For the first time we can look beyond individual disputes into the wider and deeper issues responsible for generating complaints and seek to address those in a range of ways. Our approach will be proportionate with the focus being on engagement with landlords, identifying learning and making recommendations for them to take action.

“Fundamentally, I want our use of these new powers to promote a culture of learning and openness, allowing better insight into the root cause of problems and sharing learning to drive better service delivery for all residents.”

The provision to conduct a systemic investigation beyond an individual complaint or landlord is part of the organisation’s increased powers agreed in 2020 through the revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme.

Other areas include the Complaint Handling Code and the ability to issue Complaint Handling Failure Orders’ where landlords do not comply with membership obligations, for example progressing complaints.

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