The Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is seeking to appoint a proven senior leader as Housing Ombudsman. MHCLG performs a critical role in delivering the Government’s housing agenda, and this is an exciting opportunity for the post holder to be part of that agenda and make a pivotal impact on the social housing landscape.
The Housing Ombudsman delivers an essential service in providing redress for social housing residents, both tenants and leaseholders, and for private tenants where their landlords have chosen to join the scheme. The Housing Ombudsman has a critical role to play in delivering an independent, fair and impartial service, improving complaint handling throughout the process, and in supporting and advising tenants, landlords, and designated persons to achieve quicker and more effective dispute resolution locally.
This is a significant period for housing with the publication of the Social Housing Green Paper, Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review on Building Regulations and the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Fire. Delivering effective redress has been identified as a key issue by social housing residents and is one of the main challenges the Government is taking forward through the Social Housing Green Paper. The Housing Ombudsman plays a key role in ensuring that tenants and leaseholders are able to have quick, appropriate and effective redress.
The Housing Ombudsman must be able to provide high quality senior leadership to the Housing Ombudsman Service. They must ensure that the Housing Ombudsman Service provides:
- An excellent quality of service;
- Lead the organisation in the formation and delivery of its strategy and business plan in line with the Housing Ombudsman Scheme;
- Ensure that robust and effective governance arrangements are in place.
The Housing Ombudsman (THO) is a prominent, senior figure in housing, often dealing with sensitive and challenging issues. As well as being skilled in complex decision making, the post requires an individual who is resilient, and can command public confidence and the respect of tenants, leaseholders and landlords.
This is a critical time for reviewing how wider consumer redress is delivered across all forms of housing, whether for social housing residents, for private renters, or for home owners. The Government has consulted on how to strengthen redress when things go wrong with people’s housing across all tenures in our ‘Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market’. This included exploring the option of whether access to redress across housing could simplified. We are seeking a candidate keen to lead the organisation through this period and contribute to this exciting reform agenda. The post is offered on a three year basis to reflect that this is a senior, transitional leadership role.
MHCLG is at the heart of the Prime Minister’s objective of making the UK a country that works for everyone. THO is one of the Department’s 11 Arm’s Length Bodies which deliver key areas of our agenda on the ground. THO has 54 staff (all based in London) and running costs of £5.2 million.
THO has responsibility for investigating complaints against social landlords in accordance with the Housing Ombudsman Scheme. In 2015-16 there were 3.9 million households living in social housing. Housing is an important part of everyone’s lives and issues relating to our homes can have a huge emotional impact. THO acts independently to ensure the fair resolution of disputes, aiming to resolve problems quickly and efficiently
Rented housing plays a vital role in the nation’s housing and we expect tenants to experience good standards of service regardless of whether their landlord is a local authority, housing association or private landlord. The Housing White Paper Fixing Our Broken Housing Market makes clear the Government’s ambitions to make renting fairer for tenants and THO has a vital role to play in making this happen.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the importance of providing redress to social housing has been underlined. The Social Housing Green Paper, A New Deal for Social Housing, seeks to rebalance the relationships between landlord and tenant, address stigma and ensures social housing can be both a safety net for those who need help with their housing and a base for people to meet their aspirations on ownership. Ensuring that complaints can be made easily and resolved quickly when things go wrong and that people have access to effective redress will be key issues to address and in which THO has a key role. The consultation closed on 6 November and we are currently analysing responses. The Housing Ombudsman’s responses to the consultation can be found on their website.
The Housing Ombudsman Service is also currently consulted on their draft 2019-2022 corporate plan and supporting plan for the first year. The Ombudsman’s plans have been developed based on the themes of increased accessibility, hearing the resident voice, fast and effective redress and greater transparency that emerged from the social housing green paper.
About the role
The Housing Ombudsman Service and the Housing Ombudsman Scheme
The role of the Housing Ombudsman is to resolve disputes involving members of the Scheme, including making awards of compensation or other remedies when appropriate, and supporting effective landlord-tenant dispute resolution by others. The Housing Ombudsman provides an independent, fair and impartial service and aims to achieve improvement in complaint handling in the sector throughout the process, supporting and advising landlords, tenants and designated persons to achieve more effective dispute resolution within their local procedures.
The Housing Ombudsman Scheme is approved by the Secretary of State under Section 51 of and Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1996. Membership of the Scheme is compulsory for social landlords (primarily housing associations who are or have been registered with the social housing regulator) and local authority landlords. Additionally, a number private landlords are voluntary members. The Localism Act 2011 also gave ‘designated persons’ a role in dealing with disputes between members of the Scheme and their residents, and in referring complaints that have not been resolved through the landlord’s procedures to the Housing Ombudsman.
The purpose of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme is to enable tenants and other individuals to have complaints about members investigated by the Housing Ombudsman. The Scheme came into effect on 1 April 2013 and replaced the Independent Housing Ombudsman Scheme that had been in operation since 1996.
The Housing Ombudsman Scheme is financed entirely on a membership subscription basis.
Further information on the work of the Housing Ombudsman can be found at: http://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/
The role of the Housing Ombudsman is complex and challenging. At the highest level, the Housing Ombudsman’s role is to:
- Ensure high quality services to residents and landlords using the Housing Ombudsman Scheme, and that all enquiries and complaints are dealt with appropriate consideration, fairness and to agreed timelines;
- Ensure that the organisation provides an excellent quality of service;
- Lead the organisation in the formulation and delivery of its strategy and business plan and in line with the Housing Ombudsman Scheme; and
- Ensure that strong governance is in place that meets best practice and government requirements.
- Ensure effective relationships with Government Ministers and with Parliament in carrying out the independent role of Housing Ombudsman.
- Act as a high profile advocate for independent complaints handling.
- Ensuring overarching targets and milestones are progressed and achieved.
Other responsibilities of the Ombudsman include:
- Leading the senior team in the execution of Housing Ombudsman Services’ corporate objectives, taking advice from the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee and the Panel of Advisors.
- Developing the annual budget and subscription rate in partnership with MHCLG.
- Being the ambassador for Housing Ombudsman Services, influencing and networking with key decision makers and stakeholders.
- Working collaboratively with landlords, MHCLG, tenant and leaseholder representative organisations and other stakeholders.
- Holding the senior team to account for the effective use of public funds and driving value for money.
- Ensuring that Housing Ombudsman Services’ affairs are conducted with probity, and that high standards of corporate governance are observed at all times.
- Ensuring that the Service operates within the limits of its statutory authority and in accordance with the authority delegated from its sponsoring Department (MHCLG) and with guidance issued by it (embodied in the Framework Agreement, Accounting Officer delegation letter, and annual budget delegation letter).
- Fulfilling Accounting Officer responsibilities by ensuring public funds and assets are utilised effectively and that high standards of financial administration are adhered to in line with Managing Public Money and the Cabinet Office spending controls guidance and avoiding conflicts of interest.
- Acting in accordance with the seven principles of public life.
To be successful in this role you will use your experience of:
- Leading an organisation strategically
- Strong stakeholder engagement
- Strong knowledge of decision-making process in Government
Essential criteria and experience for this role
- Evidence of strong strategic leadership skills with the ability to lead an organisation of a similar size and complexity of Housing Ombudsman Services.
- The ability to deliver organisational change and a proven ability to deliver and work with a number of stakeholders.
- Evidence of delivering a quality service and the ability to work with senior partners in the housing sector as well as across Government.
- An understanding of the decision-making process in Government.
- A proven understanding of the housing sector.
- Ability to think creatively and solve problems in a high level, challenging environment.
- Excellent communication skills, including being able to present issues clearly and confidently to Ministers and Parliament, and to deal effectively with the media.
Desirable criteria and experience for this role
- A track record of ensuring effective governance in the management of organisations.
- Experience of working within the housing sector or other related service.
- Experience of complex casework and / or complaint handling.
This is a full-time post and as this is a statutory office appointment you will not be an employee of the Crown or the Housing Ombudsman Service. The preferred candidate, selected by the Secretary of State, will be required to appear before a Parliamentary Select Committee as part of the appointment process.
For this full time role, the remuneration is up to £120,000 per annum.
Expenses and Subsistence:
You will be entitled to reimbursement of reasonable travel and subsistence costs at the same rate as members of Corporation staff.
Period of appointment:
Appointments will be made by Ministers, for a fixed initial period of up to 3 years. Appointments may be extended, subject to Ministerial approval.
The post is located in London, with travel around England as appropriate.
Eligibility: These posts are ‘non-reserved’ and are open to UK Nationals, British Nationals (Overseas), British Protected Persons, Commonwealth Citizens, EEA Nationals of other member states and certain non-EEA family members and Swiss nationals under the Swiss EU agreement. There must be no employment restriction or time limit on your permitted stay in the UK. You should normally have been resident in the United Kingdom for five years preceding your application.
Diversity: MHCLG is committed to ensuring equality of opportunity and that all our systems and processes are fair, open and objective. We endeavour to promote this approach in those with whom we come into contact. We are responsible for ensuring that the highest principles of equal opportunities policy are put into effect.
As an equal opportunities employer we make no distinction between people on grounds of their race, ethnic or national origin, age, religion or belief, sex, marital status, disability, part-time status or sexual orientation.
We would particularly welcome applications from diverse individuals / individuals from different backgrounds.
Conflicts of interest: Candidates must note the requirement to declare any interests they may have that might cause questions to be raised about their approach to the business of the Department or the Housing Ombudsman Service. These include any relevant business interests, share holdings, positions of authority, retainers, consultancy arrangements or other connections with commercial, public or voluntary bodies, both for themselves and for their spouses/partners.
If you have any interests which might be relevant to the work of the or the Housing Ombudsman Service, and which could lead to a real or perceived conflict of interest if you were to be appointed, please provide details in your supporting letter and the standard form at Annex C.
If appointed, you will be expected to act in accordance with the Cabinet Office Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies.