Watchdog had found seven cases of maladministration by the 46,000-home association

A review ordered by the Housing Ombudsman has made 15 recommendations to Orbit Group to tackle damp and mound.

The independent review, which was ordered under new powers in the Social Housing (Regulation) Act which came into force earlier this month, looked at seven cases of damp and mould where the Ombudsman had previously found maladministration.

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Investigations by the Ombudsman leading to the review found repeated poor handling of damp and mould, with residents living with the issue for as long as four years, and consistent failure to address physical or mental health needs in its response.

It found failings in inspections, oversight of repairs and record-keeping were common across many of the cases.

The review accepted that the organisation is in “transition” in its approach to damp and mould, but said more work is needed achieve a good service for residents.

The review also found that while there was a lot of focus on learning from damp and mould, there was not so much in other key areas such as repairs. The review also identified a significant lack of complex case management and that although mechanisms are currently in place to improve, “these do not fully resolve some of the concerns identified”.

A lack of in-house technical skills has also hampered some of the responses to damp and mould, with it resulting in clashes with technical advisors and residents.

In some more general reflections, the review found there was not enough evidence of resident involvement in the learning and delivery plans for improvements and similarly little evidence of further training plans for staff past the initial set of courses.

The review has also found that the landlord’s decentralised model for training has resulted in inconsistencies for job specific learning and development.

The review did however find that the landlord’s systems for registering, tracking, and analysing damp and mould cases are fit for purpose and that any key performance indicators are robust for case monitoring and management.

Richard Blakeway, housing ombudsman said: “It is clear from the repeated failings in these cases that the landlord’s damp and mould policy was not producing positive outcomes for residents when applied in practice.

“Without the review, other residents may have experienced similar service failings and the learning from our investigations and the review will help the landlord to take targeted action to improve the experience of residents. Our power to order a wider review is one of the most significant changes to way the Ombudsman operates.”

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An Orbit Group spokesperson said it had fully accepted the Ombudsman findings and welcomed the opportunity to undertake a review.

The 46,000-home association’s ‘learning statement’ said it has already implemented new initiatives to improve.

It said: “These have included significantly increasing investment in colleague training and skill development, sharpening our focus within our case management and technical teams, enhancing repair diagnostics, working with our supply chain partners, and launching a You and Your Home customer check-in pilot, allowing us to discuss with the customer any work required and how we can best support them.

“In addition, we have completed organisational-wide training to increase understanding of vulnerability, and introduced new Colleague Commitments, which set the minimum expectations for all of us and are intended to encourage everyone to aim for positive actions, whatever their role.”

Responding to the review, Baroness Scott, minister for social housing said the Ombudsman’s findings are “a clear warning to social landlords they must act swiftly to tackle dangerous hazards, including damp and mould, in people’s homes”.

She added: ”This is the first time the Ombudsman has been able to take this action, thanks to powers we gave them through the Social Housing Regulation Act. We will also go further and introduce Awaab’s Law to make sure landlords address all hazards such as mould, faulty pipes and unsafe electrical wiring within strict timeframes or face the consequences.”