Belfast Telegraph

Big rise in home bodies complaints

The number of complaints of maladministration against government departments and agencies in Northern Ireland has increased by a third, investigators said.

Decisions surrounding health and social care, housing and planning were key targets for discontent, Ombudsman Tom Frawley added.

The overall level of complaints fell from 189 to 182 but the total made against housing associations and the Housing Executive increased.

Dr Frawley said: "The complaints received against these (housing) bodies are diverse and wide-ranging, taking in maintenance, anti-social behaviour and housing allocations, however overall they show an increasing dissatisfaction across the sector, indicating continuing pressure on the provision of public services struggling against an increasing demand for social housing.

"That this is happening at potentially a time of significant organisational change in this sector is something that warrants particular attention."

The number of complaints against housing associations rose by 45% and against the Housing Executive by 28%.

Housing Minister Nelson McCausland is reviewing how social housing is allocated and has said more needs to be done to help people live independently and prevent homelessness.

There are not enough one-bedroom properties and the minister has said Northern Ireland needs 11,000 new houses every year but in recent years the supply has been closer to 7,000.

The overall number of maladministration complaints against government departments and agencies was up by 34%, from 174 last year to 233 this year, with the health and social care sector rising by 22% (45 cases), representing almost 40% of the total received by the Ombudsman's office, according to his 2012/13 annual report.

The planning process was the largest area of complaint, with an increase of 10 to 53 cases being received.

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