A review ordered by the Housing Ombudsman under the Social Housing Regulation Act looked at nearly 4,000 cases 

A ‘high-level’ independent review of nearly 4,000 Sanctuary properties found that some repairs were not completed in the target timescales and tenants’ vulnerabilities were not always considered in the handling of their repairs and complaints.


Source: Sanctuary Housing

Craig Moule, chief executive of Sanctuary Housing has said “we are determined to learn from our mistakes”

The review, which focused on repairs, record-keeping and responding to vulnerabilities, highlighted instances of repeated contacts and follow-up repairs, along with lower levels of satisfaction when contractors were involved.

Independent reviewers found that there were potentially 236 homes where there was insufficient evidence that roofing works were carried out in an efficient and timely manner.

They also found that the inspections team was not provided with adequate training around wellbeing, vulnerabilities and empathy. As a result, the review indicated that there is a risk that concerns regarding wellbeing or vulnerabilities may be missed during inspections.

The cases also highlighted a risk of repairs being closed prior to completion, while the use of off-line systems increased the risk of data gaps.

>> See also: Housing Ombudsman report into Southern Housing merger finds ‘lack of ownership’ of complaints

>> See also: Johnnie Johnson becomes part of Sanctuary

In some cases, the review noted an over-reliance on spreadsheets, which has now been eradicated with the introduction of new systems to record and manage major repairs.

Sanctuary has also changed its approach to contractor management, providing closer oversight of the quality of repairs and value for money delivered.

Following two severe maladministration findings by the Ombudsman in October and November last year, which related to issues with leaks, damp and mould, the 120,000-home housing association was instructed to undertake an independent review of its policies and practices.

The Ombudsman’s ability to make these wider orders under 54(f) of its scheme was introduced as part of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act.

Additionally, the review noted that the new complaints team structure means that training does not align with the specialist skills that staff need, creating a skills gap.

The review also stated that frontline staff seem to lack the consistent training necessary to confidently address initial complaints and respond appropriately.

The Ombudsman said that where there was limited evidence that the repairs were completed, Sanctuary has contacted residents to see if there are any outstanding issues.

The watchdog added that if works have not been completed, they are being progressed “as a matter of urgency”.

Richard Blakeway, the Housing Ombudsman said that repairs, record keeping and vulnerabilities are among the key recurring themes in casework.

Blakeway said: “It is encouraging to see the landlord tackle this head on and attempt to resolve some of the issues that have caused them problems when dealing with these complaints. The landlord’s approach to this review, and embracing the opportunity to learn, has been evident throughout and is commendable”.

He added: “Some of the actions and initiatives will need time to bed in and the landlord will be aware that what sounds good on paper has to be translated into effective action in practice. Having robust policies in place is a strong foundation but sustained focus and monitoring of outcomes is what will lead to residents experiencing improved outcomes”.

He also emphasised that “there is a learning for all landlords to take forward on these three common causes for service failings and we would encourage all to engage positively with it to improve complaint handling and extend fairness across the sector”.

Sanctuary chief executive, Craig Moule said: “Every Sanctuary customer has the right to live in a safe, well-maintained home, and for issues to be resolved without undue delay. We apologised to the customers in these cases – acknowledging we had let them down and that we needed to make changes to enable every Sanctuary customer to receive the level of service they deserve.

He said that Sanctuary welcomed the opportunity to work with the Housing Ombudsman, customers and its board to conduct the review, stating that it highlights “the hard work being done to learn from historic cases and improve our services for everyone”.

He added: “We can’t and won’t fix everything overnight, but we are determined to learn from our mistakes.”