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Secretary of State warns major housing association over slew of “extremely concerning” Ombudsman investigations

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has said he is taking a "personal and direct interest" in Clarion's functions after the Housing Ombudsman made a number of severe maladministration findings against the UK's largest housing association.

In a letter to Clarion's Chief Executive, Clare Miller, the Secretary of State wrote that he was concerned by Clarion's "defensive response" to the Housing Ombudsman's latest decision to mount a wider investigation into its processes.

Earlier this month, the Ombudsman made a conclusive finding of severe maladministration at the housing association for failing to explain a year-long delay in responding to a vulnerable resident's complaint about leaks and plumbing repairs at her home.

The Ombudsman said it was carrying out a further investigation because of other cases about similar issues "which may be indicative of repeated failure".

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In a letter sent yesterday (23 May), the Secretary of State wrote: "No one should have to live in a home with these conditions – and it should not takes years to put them right. I am deeply disappointed that as one of the largest social housing landlords who should be setting an example, you have not been able to meet fundamental standards for your tenants."

He added: "It is extremely concerning for there to be two such serious cases in quick succession."

Mr Gove said he expects Clarion to take "every step necessary" to address the issues raised, including adhering to the orders and recommendations of the Ombudsman.

"I fully support the decision by the Ombudsman to conduct a further investigation into this matter, under paragraph 50 of the Housing Ombudsman's scheme, and will pay close attention to their findings," he wrote.

The Secretary of State continued: "I also note with concern Clarion's decision to respond to this worrying report by criticising aspects of the Ombudsman's statement. The focus in response to Ombudsman reports such as this must be on putting things right and learning lessons so that some of the most vulnerable in our society get the housing and support they need. A defensive response is completely the wrong approach."

He added: "For my part, I am prepared to take any steps necessary, whether through regulatory or funding mechanisms, to drive up standards and hold landlords responsible for providing social housing residents with decent housing.

"In light of the report, and Clarion's response to it, I intend to take a personal and direct interest in your association's approach to housing conditions, engagement with residents and vulnerable complainants in particular."

In response to Mr Gove’s letter, Clare Miller said: “As Chief Executive of Clarion Housing Group, I will never shirk our responsibility to provide and maintain good quality homes.

“We have not got every decision right as an organisation, but we are making good progress and recently published a detailed update on the actions we have taken to significantly improve our service.

“There is no quick fix to the housing crisis and the UK has some of the oldest housing stock in the world. As a charitable organisation, we will continue do all we can to meet this challenge and we hope the government will work with us on our common goals.”

Clarion owns and manages 125,000 homes which house around 350,000 people.

Adam Carey

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