Social housing tenants tackle stereotypes with a new guide for media workers
Social housing tenants frustrated by negative stereotypes have inspired a unique guide for media workers called Fair Press for Tenants. It seeks to challenge misrepresentations by describing the impact of poor reporting and providing an alternative way to approach covering stories about social housing.
The experiences of men and women who live in housing provided by social landlords across the UK were gathered in a survey and interviews by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
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.
Lynne Jones is a Bolton at Home tenant who has been involved. Lynne commented: “Social housing tenants are all too often depicted in negative terms, perpetuating the myth that we're all feckless and unworthy. The fact is that the vast majority of tenants are decent, hard-working, law abiding proud citizens just wanting to make the best of their lives. Unfortunately, the media see no story in this and look for more lucrative headlines with a greater audience appeal. We're asking for the media to think about the people and give us some respect.”
Richard Peacock, Chief Executive of Soha Housing - which has led the campaign, 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.”
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. See www.benefittosociety.co.uk for more information.
Leslie Channon, a tenant representative on the project steering group 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 guide was launched on Thursday 14 September at the University of Salford.
We are among seventeen housing organisations sponsoring Benefit to Society. These are:
- Aspire Housing
- Bolton at Home
- Broadland Housing Association
- Homes in Sedgemoor
- 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