Housing Ombudsman maintains performance through pandemic

The Housing Ombudsman maintained strong performance against its targets in 2020-21 despite the unprecedented year, states its annual report.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway

The Housing Ombudsman maintained strong performance against all its targets in 2020-21 despite the unprecedented year, states its annual report published today. Complaint volumes initially reduced and then far exceeded previous levels by the end of the year. The number of cases upheld increased to 49% from 41% in the year before, and the Ombudsman made 3,455 orders and recommendations to put things right for residents, more than any recent year. 

The annual report 2020-21 sets out how the Ombudsman not only continued to keep its service running at the height of the Covid pandemic but over the year improved its performance and developed a more proactive role promoting transparency, accountability and learning. At the start of the year, as the first Covid lockdown came into place, the number of enquiries and complaints received fell by 50% in April 2020 compared to the previous year. Volumes made a steady recovery and by March 2021, the number had increased by 155% compared to March 2020.  

For cases in the Ombudsman’s formal remit, the number decreased by 16% in April 2020 compared to the previous year and then increased over the year with a 98% increase in March 2021. 

The key performance highlights from the report are: 

·       More cases determined than in the prior year with 63% of cases completed within six months (2019-20: 42%) 

·       A higher number of cases upheld from 41% in 2019-20 to 49% in 2020-21 

·       A total of 3,455 orders and recommendations issued following investigations, an increase from 2,617 in 2019-20 

·       67% of orders and 22% of recommendations involved compensation which totalled £449,212.90 over the year 

·       New Complaint Handling Code published, providing a framework for high-quality complaint handling and greater consistency across landlords’ complaint procedures  

·       Issued the first complaint handling failure orders where complaints are not progressing through landlords’ complaints procedures   

·       Recruited a 600 member Resident Panel and launched quarterly Meet the Ombudsman events 

·       Increased transparency with the publication of landlord performance reports and started publishing Ombudsman’s determinations every two weeks 

·       Published its framework for systemic investigations and undertook in-depth investigations into complaints from leaseholders and shared owners and heating and hot water.  

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “I am immensely proud of how colleagues responded during Covid-19 and their hard work over the year. Their achievements are tremendous given all the disruptions and challenges of Covid, remote working and progressing investigations as landlords and residents experienced several national lockdowns. We successfully introduced widespread changes that have transformed our role as an Ombudsman. We are now more agile, proactive and relevant to the sector.  

“We have set out even more ambitious plans for our next three year corporate plan reflecting how our role has changed and responding to the continued increase in complaints. The plan reinforces the changing role and importance of complaint handling. It sets out ways we will work across the sector to strengthen complaint handling at a local level, sharing learning to improve services and residents’ experiences, and potentially prevent issues arising.” 

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