New Ombudsmen complaint codes a birthday present for local services
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) and the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS) have launched their aligned Complaint Handling Codes which will result in better services to the public and make good practice in complaint handling clearer for local authorities and landlords.
They are launched on the day the LGSCO celebrates 50 years of remedying injustice, with 8th February marking the start of the Local Government Act 1974, which created a Commission to investigate administrative actions of local authorities.
The Complaint Handling Codes are an update of the existing Housing Ombudsman Code and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s Good Practice Guidance. They make good complaint handling easier for local authorities and landlords, while setting clear expectations for the public.
Both organisations consulted on a single Code in November 2023 which saw more than 150 councils, 250 landlords and 360 members of the public respond. In response to the consultation, and to recognise the different legal powers the organisations hold, they have produced two closely aligned Codes for complaint handling – one for council services outside of housing and one for landlords and housing authorities.
The Codes are based on unified principles and share many of the same approaches in key areas like response times. This approach follows that of the Scottish and Northern Irish Public Services Ombudsmen who have model procedures for different services under a set of unified principles.
Ms Amerdeep Somal, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“The Complaint Handling Codes mark an important step in improving standards and helping to give complaints management the priority status it deserves as part of local service delivery.
“We appreciate the feedback from the consultation and have come to a position of two individual codes that have a unified approach but recognise the different contexts in which our Ombudsman schemes work.
“50 years and still innovating! The LGSCO has a rich history of holding public services to account and helping to make things better for people using them. But by setting out clear advice and guidance, for the first time, on having an effective complaints process, it proves we are not resting on our laurels.”
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said:
“Our statutory Code promotes a positive complaints culture across the social housing sector and ensures residents do not experience a postcode lottery in complaint handling.
“We welcome the positive engagement with the Code and its aims during our consultation, and it is crucial this is translated into action on the ground. It is essential for landlords prepare for the statutory Code and this includes a robust self-assessment being submitted to the Housing Ombudsman.
“Landlords should see the release of this Code as an opportunity to reflect on their complaint handling and to make improvements where necessary to deliver better services to residents.”
The update to the Housing Ombudsman’s Code will be statutory and apply from 1 April. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s Code has today launched with information to support councils who want to be early adopters.
In 2024 LGSCO will invite a group of pilot local authorities to develop a good practice guide which will support councils to implement the Code. Councils should start to adopt the Code soon after this, if they haven’t already done so, and once it has incorporated learning from the local authority pilots, LGSCO will start considering use of the Code as part of its investigation processes.
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