Shelter, TPAS and 24housing magazine are supporting the Federation's scheme to remove a clause in the Localism Bill that would force tenants to complain through councillors, MPs or tenant panels to access the Ombudsman, having first completed their landlord's internal complaints procedure. This is known as the 'democratic filter'.
The Federation sees this as unneccessary red tape, likely to mean fewer, less successful complaints. Their campaign has already attracted the support of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, Lord Best and Lord Patel of Bradford.
In May this year the Federation published an article voicing concern that, 'the proposal would force tenants who might have an in-depth knowledge of the policies surrounding the particular issue at hand to make their complaint via someone who in effect would be a third party generalist.'
The Ombudsman has published information outlining its current position - inviting questions or comments, and in February 2011 the British and Irish Ombudsman Association submitted evidence to Parliament's Public Bill Committee.
They said, 'In summary, we believe that restricting access to ombudsmen by the introduction of a filtering scheme would undermine the rights of the citizen and would not in practice achieve more local resolution of complaints.'
During a recent Westminster debate, Grant Shapps made it clear that he is in favour of the democratic filter. He said:
'The reason why I am so keen for [complaints] to be channelled through local MPs, local councillors and tenants panels is that the tenants will be empowered to resolve problems, with the implicit threat that if the problem is not resolved through work with tenants and their representatives, a referral can be made to the ombudsman.'In December 2010 we wrote an article outlining moves to end the system of two separate ombudsmen handling social housing complaints in England.
'I believe that if that happens, far more cases will be resolved at local level and it will have the added benefit of drawing in councillors, who in many cases have become distant and disconnected from local housing problems, particularly where stocks have been transferred. It will draw them back into the discussion and an understanding of what is happening with the stock. It is very much about resolution.'