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Reasonable adjustments policy

A personal and accessible offer for residents

Revisions to the policy

1. Introduction

1.1.The purpose of the policy is to ensure that colleagues recognise, respond and record residents' vulnerabilities and disabilities, understand better when their need becomes a right and that we will record all vulnerabilities and disabilities at the point that the resident discloses them to us.

1.2.For residents we aim to provide an excellent accessible and inclusive service to ensure that we do not discriminate by not recognising, responding, and recording a disability or by not adhering to an agreed reasonable adjustment.

1.3.The policy provides a framework of understanding about the services we offer to residents and their representatives. To ensure that we deliver services that meet our legal obligations and the needs of our diverse community in everything that we do.

1.4.This policy does not set out a blanket approach to every situation, it is a statement of our intent:

  • confirms our commitment to improving accessibility and ensuring our service is inclusive for everybody
  • states our practical communication offers for everyone
  • sets out the factors that we take into account when dealing with requests for the service to be tailored and reasonable adjustments
  • how we will consider each request individually aiming to agree and deliver a service that provides the resident with the appropriate access to our service
  • affirms our commitment to colleagues' development to ensure they are equipped to provide a better service and extend fairness

1.5.This policy applies to all Housing Ombudsman Service customers, past, current and future potential customers.

NOTE: Where the policy references the resident, this includes the resident’s representative and other service users.

2. Legislation

The Equality Act 2010

2.1.The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) provides a legislative framework to protect the rights of individuals and to advance equality of opportunity for all.

2.2.Although we are not a public body organisation under the Act, as a provider of services to the public we have a duty to adhere to the Act and the provisions for public sector bodies, that is to:

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation
  • advance equality of opportunity
  • foster good relations

2.3.The Act identifies different types of discrimination, and these need to be considered when assessing requests for service adjustments, design and delivery.

  • direct discrimination – treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others. This includes:
    • discrimination by association – occurs when someone is treated unfavourably on the basis of another person’s protected characteristic.
    • discrimination by perception – occurs when someone is treated unfavourably because others believe they have a protected characteristic, even though in reality they don’t have it. It is perceptive discrimination
  • indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but, as a consequence, putting someone with a protected characteristic at an unfair disadvantage
  • harassment – unwanted and inappropriate behaviour linked to a protected characteristic that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them
  • victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment

2.4.Under the Act public sector organisations have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people, which means that organisations should be proactive and not reactive to their needs, they have a duty to be anticipatory, meaning they have to think out what is likely to be needed in advance. Therefore reasonable adjustments are varied and wide-reaching. For example:

  • extending timescales and allowing the resident more time than we would usually to provide information
  • providing additional support to residents such as a sign language interpreter

2.5.Under the Act the organisation must make reasonable adjustments that arise when a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage:

  • where there is a provision, criterion or practice which puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage
  • where a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage.
  • where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be put at a substantial disadvantage

A substantial disadvantage is defined as ‘more than minor or trivial’, compared with a person who is not disabled.

The Human Rights Act 1998

2.6.The Human Rights Act 1998 (The HR Act) will also need to be considered when assessing reasonable adjustments. The HR Act sets out the rights and freedoms that must be protected and applied without discrimination.

2.7.The HR Act states discrimination occurs when you are treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation and this treatment cannot be objectively and reasonably justified.

2.8.Discrimination also occurs if you are disadvantaged by being treated the same as another person when your circumstances are different, for example, if you are disabled or pregnant.

2.9.In Human Rights terms “everyone must be treated equally, with fairness, dignity and respect”, taking this approach helps broaden colleagues’ thinking beyond the Act's protected characteristic groups and considers other factors such as language and social origin.

3. Our service offer

3.1.To simplify the process, for colleagues and residents, we have a standard offer and a tailored offer.

3.2.The aim of delivering the standard offer to residents is to eliminate barriers to accessing the service and remove the technical term ‘reasonable adjustment’, as this term can be a blocker as a resident may think that doesn’t apply to me.

3.3.Residents can communicate with us via telephone, email and post. Our normal communication method is via email, as digital media provides residents with access to self-service accessible services and options, such as screen readers, translation, large print.

3.4.The standard offer provides residents with practical solutions and communication services at the first point of contact, without question and the need for an assessment. The standard offer is available to everyone and is not limited to a resident with a disability.

3.5.The resident's information and communications needs are established and collected at the first point of contact with their basic person details and details of their nominated representative if required.

The basic person details include name, preferred name, title, pronoun, address, correspondence address, telephone numbers and email address.

3.6.The resident can confirm their desire to appoint another person or organisation to represent them at any point during the process, as defined in the Authorisation of Representative guidance. The representative’s details are recorded along with the resident confirmation of consent.

3.7.The standard communication offer is:

  • large print (Arial 16)
  • audio
  • braille
  • telephone interpretation
  • written translation
  • British Sign Language

3.8.The practical communication requirements will be recorded on the resident’s WorkPro record, alongside the supporting communications information which includes:

  • preferred means of contact – such as email, telephone, post - we will try to use the preferred method, when this is not possible or appropriate we may need to use other methods but we will explain why
  • what should we be aware of or need to consider when contacting the resident – such as telephoning in the afternoon
  • the requirement for any translation or interpretation services and the language required – such as Polish, Romanian, Panjabi, Urdu

3.9.The basic residents’ details and communication information collected at the first point of contact helps ensure our colleagues:

  • address the resident appropriately, using their preferred name and pronoun
  • use their preferred contact
  • adapt the communication media

3.10. Colleagues will take these practical steps to ensure that resident’s requirements are met when communicating with them and managing their case. This could include commissioning appropriate internal and external services.

3.11. If colleagues are unsure if the standard offer meets the needs of the resident or it does not enable us to effectively communicate and manage their case, then the resident will be offered a tailored service. The tailored service requires an assessment of the resident’s request and needs, to help us best understand and establish if and how this can be achieved.

3.12. To ensure residents are informed about our approach and service offer, we:

  • inform residents at the first point of contact
  • included a statement in our acknowledgement emails/letters
  • publish our policy on our website
  • by including a note on our published documents indicating that we can provide the documents in an alternative format on request
  • by working with key representative groups and others stakeholders to raise awareness of this policy

4. The tailored offer

4.1.The tailored offer is not a prescribed list, it is a holistic approach. We consider a resident’s need, assess every request individually and proactively work with residents to enable us to provide an appropriate, reasonable and practicablecadjustment to our service.

4.2.Resident’s may not know our processes and taking an inquisitive approach helps us understand how we can best support them. We will request information to help us, by asking:

  • the reason you have requested us to tailor or adjust the service
  • what you would like to share with us about yourself, for example, that you have a disability, are neurodivergent or have a vulnerability
  • if you require support understanding the information we provide
  • what you would like us to take into account when communicating with you
  • what you would like us to do differently, whilst we take a proactive approach by providing options and suggestions of how we can adjust the service and linking it to what has been shared with us
  • if there is any other information they want to share about the household and the household members - this is to understand if a member of the household is disabled, neurodivergent or vulnerable which should be taken into account and could impact the risk assessment of the case

4.3.On receipt of the resident and household information we gain a holistic view of their needs, this enables us to assess what we can achieve and what is deliverable.

5. The assessment

5.1.The first step of the resident’s assessment is to determine if a tailored service is required or if it can be delivered via our standard offer. If a tailored service is required, the next step is to establish the requirements and if it is reasonable, practicable and can be delivered.

5.2.The assessment process is designed to help the caseworker understand the challenges and issues the resident encounters when they are accessing our service and how we can make it accessible. During this process, it is important to remember that vulnerabilities are fluid, health conditions can deteriorate, and needs may change.

5.3.The steps are: Identify > Develop > Consult > Review.

5.4.Identify: Using the data and information provided and disclosed by the resident, register each request on the ‘reasonable adjustment and tailored offer consideration form’.

5.5.Develop: Reflect on the disabilities disclosed, the household and each of the resident’s requests to establish how we could deliver the service, the risk to the resident if we do not deliver, and question are we discriminating against them.

5.6.During the development stage consider each of the resident’s requests to understand:

  • if it is practicable and achievable? We do not want to set false expectations, promise something we cannot deliver
  • if the changes asked for overcome the disadvantage? Be sure that the request is going to solve the problem
  • how much resource is needed to deliver the request? Understand what resources are available and whether that would be proportionate
  • what is the impact on others? Recognise if the change is sustainable
  • if the change been delivered before? Learn from previous requests
  • how it meets the Act and our public sector duty or does it go beyond? Understand if it meets the duty, we must do it
  • if we need to seek expert or specialist advice when considering how to work with the resident to overcome the difficulty they are experiencing
  • if the request is in conflict with or contrary to normal practice and policy, such as the Acceptable Behaviour policy

5.7.Develop the proposal using ‘the ‘reasonable adjustment and tailored offer consideration form’ which guides colleagues through the process and supports you in evaluating the request and completing a risk assessment.

5.8.As the proposed reasonable adjustment would potentially impact other teams and resources you will need to consult with your line manager and the management of those teams affected.

5.9.To support colleagues, we have a range of options that can be considered, these are detailed in the ‘types of adjustments we can offer’. The options should be used when evaluating and developing a proposal to discuss with the resident. During this stage, it is also important to be clear about what we cannot deliver.

5.10. Consult: communicate the proposal and arrange an appropriate conversation to work with the resident to seek agreement on the tailored approach.

5.11. During this process the resident may share additional information that should be taken into consideration.

5.12. We recognise that we are not always able to fulfil the resident’s ask of us. We will work with the resident to seek to achieve an acceptable and deliverable option; however if this is not achieved we will inform them of their right to raise a service complaint and provide information regarding the Housing Ombudsman's service complaint process.

5.13. When we have reached an agreement with the resident on the agreed approach, this will be recorded in WorkPro and the ‘consideration form’.

5.14. Review: the appropriateness of the adjustment to the service should be reviewed with the resident during the life of the case, a minimum of 12 months, by the caseworker. During the case management, it is important to review if the requirement is still valid or if it has changed. The caseworker should remain inquisitive during the case to be mindful of any potential changes.

6. Types of adjustments we can offer

6.1.Fundamentally as a minimum, we must meet our obligation under the Equality Act and to support and guide colleagues we have established a range of adjustments and changes to the way we can deliver our support.

6.2.To ensure we offer the right reasonable adjustment it is important to understand the reason for the request and how that will benefit the resident, this is recorded on the “reasonable adjustment and tailored offer consideration form”.

6.3.These are examples of the adjustments we can achieve, the list is designed to guide colleagues in considering potential options

  • extensions of time - review and agree on extensions to the normal timescales, being sensible and aware of the residents' circumstances, noting that cases cannot extend indefinitely
  • Plain English documents - validate to ensure that all documents and written communication are below 69 on the Flesch reading score
  • print documents on coloured paper. Confirm the appropriate colour spectrum of the paper and print and not the exact HEX code, which may not be achievable
  • adapt the format and presentation of the written communication and documents, this could be providing a summary version, including additional line spacing, have clear headings, remembering to check against the comms toolkit and style guide
  • Easy Read services, short sentences and pictures
  • virtual meeting, via MS Teams
  • rest or comfort breaks during telephone conversations or meetings
  • agreed callback and check-in points  a proactive approach to arranging callback and providing updates, even if there is nothing to update, the timescale would change depending on the stage of the case
  • assignment of the residents all active cases to a single caseworker, having a single point of contact at each stage of the process - due to the skills and knowledge required at each stage of the process, we cannot offer the resident a single point of contact during the life of the case
  • handover protocols - to support the resident through the stages a handover transition step will be included
  • for extremely complex cases, we can assess the need to commission specialist organisations to support us

6.4.When considering other options it is important to also consider and confirm:

  • the adjustment addresses the disadvantage it is meant to overcome
  • it is practical to provide the adjustment
  • the resources and costs required to provide the adjustment are reasonable and proportionate (including external services)
  • in changing policies, criterion or practices, we are retaining the basic nature of the service we offer
  • the adjustment will not cause any, or very minimal, disruption to our service (including the service provided to other customers)
  • it is deliverable and sustainable throughout the case management process

7. How do we decide what is reasonable?

7.1.The Equality Act does not define what is ‘reasonable’ but guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission Acts suggest that the most relevant factors are:

  • the effectiveness of the adjustment(s) in preventing or reducing the disadvantage for the disabled person
  • the practicality of us making the adjustments
  • the availability of our resources including external assistance and finance
  • any disruption to the Service that making the adjustment may cause

7.2.Effectiveness: the adjustment should be designed to address the disadvantage it is meant to overcome.

7.3.Practicality: it may not be possible for us to provide additional time to customers if there are legislative deadlines to meet.

7.4.Resources: resourcing is not just about the cost, it may involve other factors and colleague times. If an adjustment requires substantial resources from the organisation it may not be deemed reasonable.

7.5.The reasonableness of an adjustment will be evaluated against the resources available to our Service. In practice, many reasonable adjustments involve little or no cost or additional resourcing requirements and are relatively easy to implement.

7.6.In changing policies, criteria or practices we are not required to change the basic nature of the service we offer.

7.7.Potential Disruption to Housing Ombudsman Service activities. It would not usually be reasonable to devote our resources to one resident as others will inevitably suffer. The amount of extra time provided must therefore be ‘reasonable’ in all the circumstances.

8. Service complaints – Reasonable adjustments

8.1.Residents have the right to raise a service complaint if an agreement on the reasonable adjustment outcome cannot be reached with their caseworker.

8.2.The service complaints team:

  • will investigate the complaint to ensure we have followed a fair process, in line with this policy
  • can request that an independent casework manager or head of service review the reasonable adjustment assessment
  • cannot comment on what is reasonable and practicable concerning the operational delivery teams

9. Training

9.1.All colleagues will receive EDI training to be aware of legal requirements under the Equality Act and Human Rights Act and provide an understanding of different communication needs.

9.2.Learning programmes will continue to support colleagues to gain a wider understanding of suitable communication techniques with regard to health issues and neurodiverse conditions.

10. Monitor and review

10.1. We will record and monitor the reasonable adjustments requests, within WorkPro, this will allow us to review the services we provide and help us identify whether there are any wider steps that we can take to improve our services.

10.2. Our EDI reporting will incorporate the reasonable adjustment outcomes to drive and shape future improvement to our service offer and training programme.

10.3. Over the life of the policy, we will explore the potential of EDI ambassadors, who could support the development of additional guidance, case studies and best practice communicating with residents with complex communication needs.

10.4. Dealing with complaints about our service. We are committed to providing a high standard of service, dealing with everyone in a way that is fair and free from discrimination. If someone is dissatisfied with the arrangements we have made for providing reasonable adjustments, we will respond in accordance with our complaints policy. If necessary when reviewing our decision we will seek advice from specific expert disability groups or seek legal advice.