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Housing Ombudsman to start recruitment drive ahead of service expansion

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Housing Ombudsman to start recruitment drive ahead of service expansion

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Housing Ombudsman to start recruitment drive ahead of service expansion Housing Ombudsman to start recruitment drive ahead of service expansion

A recruitment freeze that prevented the Housing Ombudsman from taking on extra staff is being lifted, writes Neil Merrick.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has told Ombudsman Mike Biles that he can recruit 12 extra case workers ahead of its expansion next April. This will supplement three additional workers employed earlier this year and take the total number at the service to 40.

At present, the Ombudsman service investigates complaints made by tenants against housing associations and some private providers. From April, its workload is likely to increase considerably when operations expand to cover cases involving council landlords (including arm’s length management organisations).

At a Communities and Local Government select committee inquiry earlier this month, Dr Biles told MPs that much of the “value added” work done by the Ombudsman would disappear if the government did not grant it an exemption from a public sector recruitment freeze and allow it to take on more case workers.

The cost of the 12 new staff will be in the region of £500,000 per year, including on-going costs. But employing the workers will not the cost the government anything as the money, raised from money paid by associations and other providers, is sitting in the Ombudsman’s budget.

“It’s good news,” said Dr Biles, adding that job adverts would appear soon. He is optimistic that some posts can be filled well ahead of next April. “It depends on what we get in terms of the quality of applicant,” he added.

The background of case workers varies and includes lawyers and environmental health officers. The number of complaints received by the Housing Ombudsman has virtually doubled since 2008 and last year rose by 9% to 5,844.

A further 10% increase is forecast by the service this year, even before it starts to investigate councils, with tenant dissatisfaction resulting from welfare reform and changes to housing law identified as major reasons.

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