Where is Social Housing’s Marcus Rashford?

Thursday 18th of June 2020

Our business development manager, Michael Hill writes this challenging piece to connect up his thoughts on the Marcus Rashford U-turn and the value of listening to residents. 

This whole free school meals debate, and the subsequent U-turn from the Government got me thinking about how Mr. Rashford, a young Manchester United footballer, managed to connect with so many people to create a force that was unstoppable.


This is a just a footballer by the way. You know, if you believe the stereotypes, those generally uneducated people who kick a bag of wind around a park. Those who have too much money and very little connection to most ‘normal’ people. I think he surprised many.


I’ve seen on social media many organisations and individuals commenting and getting very animated at a system that didn’t appear to be listening to this humble young man. A man who had lived a system that he knew was valuable to many so decided to make a stand. I wondered if those who were jumping on his train of change, were truly living that in their work life.


I started to ponder resident engagement and the almost daily battles to try and demonstrate that the lived experience of residents, was a relevant, valuable and available resource. I have seen residents’ eyes roll in frustration when Landlord plans came out, and they resembled little of the real world that residents were actually living in. I’ve seen residents walk away from engagement activities saying things such as ‘they don’t understand’, ‘they don’t live here’ and ‘they’ve not experienced the service we get’.


What have I done? Well I have done everything in my power to produce engagement opportunities for residents and demonstrate the benefits they can bring to an organisation and its community. The challenge is and always has been platform and opportunity – more on that in a minute.


So if we believe that Marcus Rashford and his lived experience is valid – why is it so hard for Social Housing Landlords’ to see residents in the same light? Why is it that Housing staff seem to believe they have all the answers? How has Marcus Rashford made more headway in a week into a significant socially impactful Government U-turn, than most have done in years?


For too long we have consulted with residents (we all know that consultation can be a very elaborate tokenistic tick box exercise) but we need to demand more participation and decision-making opportunities so the delivery of services truly reflects reality.


I will add a caveat that not all Social Housing Landlords ignore residents’ views, there are some great ones. But there are many more that don’t recognise the value of the thoughts, feelings, and lived experience of the people who pay the rent and receive the service. Too many only do what they are told, rather than what they know is right.


Platform and opportunity

As I said earlier, it can be a challenge to make significant difference in a system if you do not have a) the right platform and b) the opportunity.

I want to challenge the sector leaders, the CEO’s, the Executive Directors and the Chair’s of Boards

  • When are you going to come out and make a real stand by insisting that residents are fundamentally part of your business decisions, not just by words, by action?
  • When will you challenge the Government to make resident engagement and lived experience an essential criteria to determining good Governance?
  • When will you put the people who you are working for first, and ensure that they can take their rightful place as a primary stakeholder of importance?
  • When will you set the bar high within your organisation so that no matter what, the lived experience of your residents is front and centre within your staff teams?


We are not talking about having just one sole tenant on the board or a Scrutiny Group that in reality is constrained and curtailed with no real teeth. I think there are good people in this sector with a real desire to make a difference – it’s time to step up and be counted.


So I will ask you this – where is your Marcus Rashford? Where will your Landlord get its dose of reality that will stop them in their tracks and insist they think again? In fact I will go one stage further – why can’t you, yes you, be the one that steps out and makes that challenge?


Remember - A change of heart, a re-think doesn’t have to be seen as a defeat. Working as a team always produces better results, ask Mr. Rashford.


Image credit: Oli Scarff / AFP - Getty Images file