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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

See the person, not the tenure. See the person, not the stereotype


See the Person is the name for the campaign led and organised by social housing tenants and staff to help combat the stigma associated with those who live in social housing. In this blog, campaign team members Fiona Brown from Progress Housing and Pam Hankinson from South Yorkshire Housing tell us all about the campaign, the research that’s been done so far, and what more we need to do to end the stigma in social housing.

Only a very small number of people in a social housing tenure are in receipt of benefits and/or behave antisocially, so we’re fed up with the fact that many people point the finger and look down on those who live in social housing. We want to set the story straight and see a more balanced representation and understanding of the people living in social housing.

The See the Person campaign started in 2017, with a number of tenants and staff from social landlords discussing how we could change public perception, and at first, called ourselves ‘Smashing Silly Stereotypes’. We wanted to make a difference outside of the housing sector.

So, what have we done so far?

In late 2017, we changed our name to ‘Benefit Society'

in an attempt to change the view about social housing and assumptions about benefits. We wanted to show that social housing is not about subsidies, it’s about people with somewhere decent to live having the time and resource to give back to society. We wanted to reflect the volunteering, work and community involvement we’d all experienced.

We gained support from around 30 housing organisations, including housing associations, councils, ALMOs and trade bodies. We carried out research with YouGov, which found that the general public thought that people living in social housing were unemployed and in receipt of benefits. It also showed that people most likely to hold these views were younger men who are home-owners.

We sought opinions from tenants in many organisations which showed that 9/10 thought the media portrayed them unfairly. We commissioned the London School of Economics to produce their findings from research which showed that the reality of social housing did not reflect the general concept. This is published on our website.

We then began working with the National Union of Journalists to help produce a guide for journalists and media workers called Fair Press for Tenants, which went on to feature in a number of trade magazines aimed at media workers.

We gained support from Facebook, who helped us put together a social media campaign. We ran this in early 2018 and reached more than 300K accounts on Facebook. We also ran a Twitter campaign, but this mainly reached people in housing – not the general public.

We launched our campaign and our research in the House of Commons in 2018 and gained support from the then housing minister, Dominic Raab, and shadow minister, Melanie Onn. We were featured in the green paper and have been invited on a number of occasions to provide views and information to the Ministry.

We asked tenants to take a survey online and almost 700 tenants responded. This showed that 74% of tenants experienced stigma and a further 10% were not sure. The main source of the stigma has been direct and local and has had a direct effect on the well-being of those affected. You can see the full results here.

Where are we now?

In late 2018, our name changed again, but this time to See the Person to reflect our wish for the general public to see us for who we are – individuals who give many hours of our time volunteering, holding responsible posts in organisations and working. We’ve started 2020 by asking tenants to take a further survey online so we can use these results to produce a toolkit for landlords, advising them of the areas in their organisations where tenants experience stigma. The survey is still open, so please take some time to complete it today to share your thoughts. We're hoping to launch the toolkit later in the year at Housing 2020.

See the Person has always been a true partnership of tenants and staff in housing. We now have an elected tenant leadership committee who are spearheading the next phase of the campaign.

We are really pleased that others in the sector are concerned about stigma and would ask for their support to put tenants at the forefront of this.



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