The housing groups have written a joint letter, published in today’s Independent, spelling out their concerns over a clause in the Localism Bill that will prevent social housing tenants from complaining directly to their housing ombudsman.
The Bill, which contains a clause that would force tenants to take their complaint through a third party of a local councillor, MP or tenant panel, is being debated in the House of Lords at the moment.
The letter describes this move as ‘disempowering for tenants, costly to the public and unnecessarily bureaucratic’.
It adds: ‘Third parties should only be involved at the discretion of the complainant, not at the insistence of the government. In a recent ICM poll, 82% preferred to deal directly with the ombudsman or have the choice to involve a third party.’
Other issues raised in the letter were a concern that extra red tape could lead to justified complaints being dropped and would certainly cause delays. Also that tenants’ should not be forced to reveal personal information to politicians, which will discourage complaints on challenging or politically contentious issues.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation said: ‘When the Government has said it is committed to reducing red tape in all other areas – why are social housing tenants any different? Housing associations want to provide the best possible service to their tenants, including an effective complaints regime. Adding red tape and disempowering tenants could mean fewer, less successful complaints.’
Michelle Reid, chief executive of TPAS said: ‘We worry that this procedure puts an additional hurdle between tenants and the proper resolution of their complaints. If tenants want help, they should have the right – even be encouraged – to ask for it. But third party involvement should not be forced on them at the expense of their privacy and empowerment.’
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