Comment Piece - Jenny Osbourne: ITV News - Exposing being ignored, botched repairs and disregarded complaints

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

The stories we’ve been hearing from Daniel Hewitt on ITV News are depressingly familiar to those of us working in housing. On Monday nights News at Ten, we heard from Nicole – an all too familiar tale of being ignored, botched repairs and disregarded complaints, culminating in a ceiling collapse and gallons of water pouring through her living room ceiling. An abject failure.

It’s heartening, and so important, to see these stories taking the lead on a flagship national news programme. It was important to hear Daniel echo what we and others have been saying for years: the lack of social housing is at the root of the stigma and poor service that so many tenants experience. Tenants shouldn’t be expected to feel lucky that they’ve got a home, or satisfied with the inadequate service from their landlord.  Of course we understand that staff are demoralised, having so little to offer. But we believe that staff can and should respond much faster and with more empathy when things go wrong. I was proud to hear Alison Inman, our board member and former CIH president, hitting the nail on the head, when she said ‘There’s no excuse for not having a human response’.

As Julie Etchingham explained, the problems with social housing aren’t just about resources, there’s also a problem of culture. We have been saying that for years. At Tpas, we’ve always known that the problems in our housing systems won’t be resolved while tenants’ voices continue to be ignored or pushed aside. Tenants have a right to be heard, and to have their concerns taken seriously. But they’re also a valuable partner for landlords. Who better, after all, to help landlords make the best of what little resources are available? At Tpas we know there are many positive stories to tell about good working between landlords and tenants but that is no excuse for those heart-breaking stories we’ve seen and heard in the news.

So, whilst I am saddened she had to, I’m also very grateful to Nicole for sharing her story, and to ITV News for ensuring that tenants’ voices are being heard in so many homes across the country. Tpas and many others were disappointed that last year’s Social Housing White Paper didn’t deliver on plans for a National Tenants’ Voice or do more to tackle stigma. Until that’s resolved, it looks like ITV News and tenants like Nicole are filling that gap. To our shame, there are all too many similar stories to tell.