England: New guide launched to give social housing tenants a fair press

WebA campaign which is sponsored by seventeen housing organisations in England and supported by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has sought to challenge negative perceptions that impact upon social housing tenants and launched a new guide for people in the media.

Fair Press for Tenants seeks to challenge misrepresentations by describing the impact of poor reporting and providing an alternative way to approach covering stories about social housing.

The guide is aimed at journalists, PR professionals, documentary makers and any media workers keen to hear the views of their readers, viewers and listeners on media representation of life in social housing.

It is informed entirely by the ideas and words of people living in social housing.

The guide is part of a wider Benefit to Society initiative which acknowledges that common misrepresentations of social housing tenants in the local and national media often include inaccurate perceptions such as tenants being associated with exploiting the benefit system and living in run down estates.

These misrepresentations are damaging and drive the public to have a typically negative stereotypical view of social housing tenants.

Benefit to Society also hopes to challenge those responsible for pushing the negative stereotypes, including government, the public and housing organisations themselves.

Richard Peacock, chief executive of Soha Housing, said: “The kind of stigma we commonly see attached to living in social housing is more than unfair, it’s damaging.

“Many tenants have told me of their frustration at the lazy stereotypes shown in newspaper images, stories and on TV reporting.

“My concern is that this negativity only leads to sidelining of tenants’ views and I think that this is ultimately dangerous for the balanced society we surely all want. Respect for people in our diverse society seems more crucial now than ever.

“A failure to have this can lead to unfair and unjust policy making and allocation of resources.”

Leslie Channon, a tenant representative and a director of TPAS, said: “I’m proud to be part of something that is challenging the negative way we tenants are viewed all too often in the media. We’re just normal people, living our lives and we deserve the same respect as everyone else.”

NUJ activist Rachel Broady, equality officer at Manchester and Salford Branch, worked with a group of social housing tenants to decide the content and wording of the guide.

Rachel, who is a social housing tenant herself, said: “The tenants I worked with agreed that lazy stereotypes of nuisance neighbours need to be confronted and the clichéd photos of grim streets need to be reconsidered.

“Stereotyping social housing tenants has real consequences; it denies us a voice and allows our concerns to be dismissed because it too often portrays us as nuisances, as demanding something we’re not entitled to.

“I think this is particularly apparent after the Grenfell Tower atrocity where, combined with a lack of local reporting, the legitimate concerns of tenants were too easily ignored.”

The housing organisations involved with Benefit to Society are: Aspire Housing, Bolton at Home, Broadland Housing Association, Homes in Sedgemoor, Optivo, Progress Housing Group, Red Kite Community Housing, The Riverside Group, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, Soha Housing, South Yorkshire Housing Association, Town & Country Housing Group, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, TPAS, ARCH, NFA and NFTMO.

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