The review of Sandwell Council’s Reasonable Adjustment policy includes ensuring it is easily accessible on its website, that it provides training to staff on its use and that it is applied to the resident in this case.
The resident told the landlord years before this case that he has OCD, heightened anxiety and morbid depression. The resident explained that he gets panic attacks, suffers with insomnia and is dyslexic.
After the first reporting of the anti-social behaviour, in which the resident reminded the landlord of his mental health needs, he was forced to remind them of the detrimental impact it was having on him six times over the next five months whilst there was little action from the landlord to respond effectively to the needs.
There were only two occasions where the landlord took any action on the resident’s concerns which was to signpost to Victims Support nearly three months after the initial complaint and then referring to other support agencies nearly two months after this.
The investigation also noted that it was only through the actions of the resident himself, contacting the NHS 24/7 Urgent Mental Health Helpline to ask for further support regarding his mental health and support regarding his housing situation, that referrals were made to the appropriate mental health and safeguarding services.
In its final response, the landlord failed to respond to the resident’s query about Reasonable Adjustments, and even when requested to provide evidence around this for the Ombudsman, only presented its Housing Allocations policy rather than its own Reasonable Adjustments policy.
The Ombudsman also ordered the landlord to apologise to the resident, pay £1,000 in compensation and ensure learning from this case is taken forward so it does not happen again.
In its learning from the case, the landlord said it now rolled out a new Reasonable Adjustments policy and put training on for staff, as well as better training on complaints investigations.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “It is clear that the landlord could have offered the resident additional support and that it missed multiple opportunities to do so, including referring him to relevant services at a much earlier point.
“This represents a significant failure by the landlord which resulted in unnecessary upset to the resident and an understandable feeling that the landlord was not taking his concerns about his mental health and wellbeing seriously.
“Having a Reasonable Adjustments policy in place and making it both accessible to residents whilst also having staff adequately trained on its use, is vital as social housing grapples with the complexity of the cases they’re dealing with.”
The Ombudsman also found maladministration for how it handled the ASB due to poor communication throughout, as well as maladministration for the complaint handling due to not recognising dissatisfaction as a complaint and therefore delaying a stage one response.
In all cases of severe maladministration, the Ombudsman invites the landlord to provide a learning statement.
Sandwell Council learning statement
We fully accept the findings of the Ombudsman in this case and have apologised for those failures to our tenant. We have also learnt some important lessons from the Ombudsman’s findings that will ensure future ASB investigations assess and address the individual needs of the complainant and subject of complaints.
This case highlighted the absence of a clear reasonable adjustment policy for our investigating officers to follow.
This policy is now in place with training plans in development to embed its principles. We accept our communication in this case didn’t meet our normal expectations or standards and we continue to work hard to ensure our case management principles, which place emphasis on the importance of good communication, are complied with in each and every case.
Refresher training on complaint investigation has also been rolled out and a wider review of our complaint handling processes is already underway.