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| 2 minutes read

Housing and inquests: what should organisations do when notified of an inquest?

This article is part of our Housing Management & Property Litigation Brief: Issue 31.

We have seen a large increase in housing and care providers being involved in inquests over the last couple of years. Coroners are taking a lot more interest in housing conditions and provision of care and support (where offered) and this has equally been subject to significant media scrutiny. So, the question is what are the key things to do when you become aware of an unnatural death of a resident and the matter is passed over to the Coroner?

1. Escalate to a senior member of staff

Upon notice of an unnatural death of a tenant or service user, that the matter is escalated to a designated senior member of staff. This person will need to co-ordinate data retention and recovery, implement any relevant procedures in respect of the property or staff and liaise with various internal and external contacts. It is imperative that someone takes ownership of the situation to not only protect the organisation but also staff members.

2. Undertake a review and prepare a report

We recommend that an internal review is undertaken by a senior member of staff, who was not involved in the day-to-day management of the deceased’s tenancy, to determine what involvement, if any, staff members had with deceased prior to their death to determine if there was any service failure or other conduct or lack of action which could have been a contributing factor to the death. The report should be objective and where any deficiencies are identified, recommendations for change should be detailed with timeframes for implementation. This report can be used as evidence of the organisations investigation, but also what is or has been done to ensure the same issue does not arise again. The latter point is important because the Coroner will be looking out for risks that could cause or contribute to future deaths.

3. Engage with the Coroner

The Coroner’s clerk will get in touch and ask for disclosure and/or witness evidence from various people. This may be shortly after the death or some months later. It is important that you engage fully with the Coroner but consideration must be given to what information is provided and where uncertain, we recommend seeking legal advice. Particularly where there does appear to be some shortfall in service or written witness statements are requested.

4. Engagement with the media

In some cases where the death in question has received media attention, you may receive requests for information or comment from media outlets. If this occurs it is imperative that the matter is referred to your communications team who will be best placed to respond to the request, and will know when and where to get additional support. Inquests can give rise to very negative publicity so it is important that information is managed carefully and only specific individuals liaise with the media.

Should you have any questions or need advice please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Click here to read issue 31 of our Housing Management & Property Litigation Brief.


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