Efforts are being made by the Housing Ombudsman to improve the accessibility of its complaint system as part of a new project being launched today.
Applications are now open for members of an expert group that will provide specialist insight and expertise, with the ombudsman specifically looking for volunteers who have knowledge and experience of accessibility and inclusion issues.
This includes experience of working with those who face barriers accessing services relevant to complaints and in improving accessibility to complaint services in social housing or other sectors.
It is expected that the group will be made up of around roughly six members. The role is unpaid and will be for one year, with the group meeting four times across the year.
The Housing Ombudsman service is currently undergoing a major overhaul following the publishing of the post-Grenfell Social Housing White Paper.
Richard Blakeway, housing ombudsman, said “the overall volume of complaints is increasing”, but said “there is still a real risk that some residents, and potentially more vulnerable ones, continue to find the process inaccessible”.
The project will explore access to the complaints service for groups such as those without internet access, low literacy or where English may not be their first language.
A review of the ombudsman’s complaints data will also be undertaken to identify any groups who are underrepresented.
Mr Blakeway said: “The absence of complaints to a landlord or among a particular group may signal access issues, particularly where other indicators suggest there would be complaints.”
He added: “We also see cases where residents have used the courts or the media when they have an unresolved issue with their landlord rather than the complaints process, and cases failing to reach us where we could potentially do something to genuinely assist the resident with their situation. Raising awareness and widening access to the complaints process is therefore essential.”