Saturday, 23 May 2015

Michael Hill

Michael Hill

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  • Comment on: Council failed domestic violence victim - report

    Michael Hill's comment | 13/10/2011 1:50 pm

    I agree F451 - however, the changes being made in the Localism Bill would not have affected this case as it is to do with homelessness and so would still fall under the remit and the rules of the Local Government Ombudsman. Only housing management activities will be transferred to the Housing Ombudsman - and the 'referral' rules - homelessness and other strategic housing functions will stay with the Local Government Ombudsman (and therefore retain direct access). Confusing? yes....

  • Comment on: Ombudsman concerned by direct complaint ban

    Michael Hill's comment | 09/09/2011 10:34 am

    Alex, I think there are two main issues with this. Firstly, surely it should be the choice of the complainant to involve other tenants? Already, a complainant has the choice to get a tenant rep involved if they want to (or a cllr or MP). Secondly, most HA complaint procedures already have a panel with tenant representation at the final stage. The last HA I worked with had a panel of 3 people - two tenant reps and a board member (it used to be 2 tenant reps and an independent person but the housing ombudsman said that a board member had to be on the panel...). Therefore, why involve yet another layer and yet another stage - HA complaint procedures have more internal stages than any other sector already. And a final point - some complaints are very sensitive and the complainant just doesn't want to share details with other tenants. I dealt with a very sensitive complaint about a HAs handling of a domestic violence issue where the complainant wanted to keep matters very private - in the Localism Bill she would be forced to share those matters with other tenants or a MP or a councillor if the HA failed to resolve her complaint. To me that is unjust and absurd - and why should this only apply to social housing tenants? Why can I complain about planning matters and have direct access to the Ombudsman? Why can I complain about homelessness (homelessness will remain with the Local Government Ombudsman) and complain direct to an Ombudsman? etc etc....

  • Comment on: Ombudsman concerned by direct complaint ban

    Michael Hill's comment | 09/09/2011 9:25 am

    The Coalition Government believes that the removal of direct access will encourage greater local resolution of complaints. However, what actually encourages local resolution from a regulatory perspective is decreasing the time that an organisation is allowed to resolve a complaint - such as in the Financial, Legal, Telecoms and Energy sectors where they are allowed 4 weeks (or 8 weeks for 'complex' cases) to deliver a final response. If they fail to do so, the customer can go straight to an Ombudsman - and continued failures are flagged with a regulator for action (such as the fines imposed on RBS, BoS, British Gas etc). This really does concentrate the minds of those businesses locally because they actually don't want the Ombudsman to be continually knocking on their door.

  • Comment on: Law body attacks ombudsman 'filter'

    Michael Hill's comment | 20/07/2011 10:41 pm

    The fact is that an Ombudsman is an alternative to the courts for those wanting to obtain redress. An Ombudsman is not a consumer advocate nor a regulator. You might be unhappy because you have not got the outcome you wanted but the alternative is costly legal redress or simply nowhere to go. Many people do achieve satisfactory resolution of a complaint via an Ombudsman - and if coupled with effective regulation - they can be effective at highlighting systemic failures.

    A sector without an Ombudsman often leaves a real void for those consumers that have been wronged by a company or organisation - which is why even self-regulation in the private sector often results in the creation of an Ombudsman-style scheme.

    What is the alternative if complaint to an Ombudsman is a 'waste of time and effort'? A costly legal action or accepting defeat? A direct complaint to an Ombudsman at least gives us some opportunity to put matters in our own hands.

    I am against the removal of direct access and actually I am also against the current approach of the Housing Ombudsman to require 3 stages and also not to have a time limit for a complaint to go through those 3 stages. Three stages is too many and - if telecoms, legal (solicitors and barristers), finance, property (surveyors, estate agents) and energy sectors can all impose a limit of 8 weeks (and 12 weeks in local govt currently) before the customer can complain to an Ombudsman then surely this can also apply to social housing. These time limits are what actually encourage local resolution because companies do not want the cost of Ombudsman involvement and are more motivated to get a complaint sorted (especially when combined with a case fee).

    Remember, that the proposals in the Localism Bill will result in dissatisfied social housing tenants being required to go through 3 stages of internal complaint procedure and then - after the organisation has told them their final response - they will have to choose between a MP, local councillor or tenants panel and then wait to find out what they do (which might be nothing at all) and possibly they might have their complaint referred to the Ombudsman - and if that designated person chooses not to make a referral to the Ombudsman then that is it - justice will be denied completely!

  • Comment on: Law body attacks ombudsman 'filter'

    Michael Hill's comment | 18/07/2011 2:30 pm

    McMadman - you are correct. If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then all you need to do - after exhausting a local complaint procedure of course - is to complain direct to the relevant public services ombudsman. So, it is only English social housing residents who will lose their right of direct access to an Ombudsman.

    Also,an Ombudsman is not a regulator but an external complaint handling body.

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