Social housing sector must not become victim of Cameron's blame game
Published by Jon Land on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 at 13:16 pm
What was that all about?
Last month 24housing magazine was singing the praises of social housing providers for the wonderful outreach work they do in bringing together communities and making the world a better place for their tenants, then the next minute those very same communities are the focus of public outrage for housing the people responsible for the worst episodes of rioting and looting since the darks days of the 1980s.
While there is no doubt that social housing tenants were involved in some of the criminal activities of the last few weeks, is it not a little too convenient for large parts of the national media and (mainly Conservative) elements of the Coalition Government to lay the blame firmly at the door of the benefit-scrounging ‘scum’ that the sector has a duty to house at considerable taxpayer expense?
In the immediate aftermath of the riots, somebody had to be held responsible and it certainly wasn’t going to be the Government. David Cameron, desperate to look like a Prime Minister in charge, initially took a scattershot approach to the blame game – the police got it wrong, society was ‘sick’ etc – but eventually settled on the all too obvious target - the criminal underclass that lurk on council estates.
To a certain extent he may have a point. It’s pretty obvious that the more organised attacks were co-ordinated by gangs but, as is fairly typical, he ends up tarnishing all social housing tenants with the same brush. It is important to remember that many tenants were also innocent victims of the violence with dozens having their homes destroyed in Tottenham and other parts of the country.
Cameron’s ‘fightback’ was supported by the ever-loyal Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles who quickly rushed out hard-hitting statements announcing that any tenants involved directly or indirectly in the riots would face eviction from their home – and their families too. Talk about a knee-jerk response.
Not only is it disappointing for the social housing sector that tenants have become the scapegoat of choice for this entire sorry episode, it could become a major problem. All the hard work social landlords have done in recent years to improve their public image is in danger of unravelling.
In particular, my fear is that all the excellent community outreach work becomes undermined and declared ineffective.
However we respond as a sector, we must not allow that to happen.
READ PREVIOUS »