Homes Riddled With ‘Vermin, Mould, Damp, Leaks And Collapsing Ceilings’ The Damning Housing Ombudsman Report Triggered By An ITV News Investigation

‘There needs to be change’: The damning housing report triggered by an ITV News investigation

HOUSING Tuesday 26 October 2021, 10:41pm Daniel Hewitt, Political Correspondent

The Ombudsman’s “damning” report accuses councils of creating a “culture of blame” for tenants who are living in squalid conditions, explains ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt
The Housing Ombudsman for England has called for a culture change in social housing, accusing landlords of blaming tenants and not taking responsibility for disrepairs following an ITV News investigation.

Richard Blakeway told ITV News he was “shocked” by the news reports, saying councils and housing associations lack empathy and respect for residents.

In a damning report, which investigated 142 social housing providers and spoke to hundreds of tenants, he demanded “changes in culture, behaviour and approach; from being reactive to proactive, and from inferring blame to taking responsibility.”

The Ombudsman’s inquiry was launched after a series of ITV News reports which found social housing tenants living in uninhabitable conditions, in homes riddled with mould, damp, leaks and collapsing ceilings.

Dan Hewitt on the damning report and what needs to change to improve social housing for tenants

Britain’s Housing Shame: Shocking conditions and despair at a lack of action
The man struggling to breathe in council flat ‘unfit to house humans’
“The recent media coverage clearly demonstrates the significant impact on residents when things do go wrong, complaints are not responded to appropriately, and lessons are not learned,” said Mr Blakeway.

“There is a strong legislative and policy basis to prevent these issues arising but it is clear that despite this, residents are still facing problems, sometimes extreme problems, and landlords are struggling to resolve these. This means we need a fresh approach.”

‘There needs to be a zero tolerance approach, there needs to be a change in culture’

He said the distress caused by landlords’ failure to resolve mould and damp cases was “the most profound we have seen”, raising concerns about tenants’ physical and mental health, and stressing the impact on children.

It has also led, the report states, to “the loss of trust and reputation.”

What does the report call for?

The report makes 26 recommendations to councils and housing associations, demanding they:

adopt a zero-tolerance approach to damp and mould interventions

review the accessibility and use of their systems for reporting repairs and making complaints

improve staff training

avoid automatically apportioning blame or using language that leaves residents feeling blamed

treat residents with “respect and empathy.”

Mr Blakeway told ITV News: “I think the focus of scrutiny that you’ve brought on this issue, alongside our work as an Ombudsman, means that most landlords are waiting for this report, and want to read this report and see what action they can take as a result of it.”

The Ombudsman announced in April an inquiry into the prevalence of damp and mould in homes across England, after a series of ITV News reports into social housing conditions.

In March we revealed the shocking state of a block of flats in South London owned and managed by Croydon Council, where for years tenants’ complaints of thick, black mould, soaked floors and dangerous leaks had been ignored. The living conditions were described by leading housing charity Shelter as the worst they had ever seen.

Here is ITV News’ first report into the shocking state of social housing some tenants have to put up with – the first of a hard-hitting series of reports

ITV News has been inundated with cases across country of tenants living in damp, mould-infested homes struggling to be taken seriously.

The Housing Ombudsman’s inquiry is one of five investigations prompted by ITV News’ housing investigation, including:

An independent inquiry into Croydon Council, which found tenants health and safety was put at risk

A Regulator for Social Housing investigation into Croydon which found the Council guilty of breaching consumer standards

A Regulator for Social Housing inquiry into Clarion – Britain’s biggest housing association – following an ITV News report into conditions on the Eastfields estate in Mitcham

An investigation by the Welsh Government into the state of social housing in Wales.

Is the Ombudsman partly at fault for this?

At the Wellingborough Diggers’ memorial – with local Independent Socialists Paul Crofts & Richard Jackson

At the Wellingborough Diggers memorial – with Independent Socialists Paul Crofts & Richard Jackson

A group for all independently-minded people who are broadly “socialist” in outlook and beliefs. You do not have to be a member of any political party, but you can be if you want. Campaigns for progressive social change in Wellingborough and Northamptonshire/UK

At the Wellingborough Diggers’ memorial – with Wellingborough Independent Socialists Paul Crofts & Richard Jackson Martin Summers & Tony Gosling 01 Oct 2021

The Wellingborough Diggers of 1650: A tribute to Mischief-making on a grand scale
The contribution of the Diggers cannot be underestimated as we wrestle with opposing the gross and disgusting inequalities of wealth and income across the globe that is there for all to see and developing a vision of a different kind of society in the future. The Diggers dreamt of a new type of world and that dream is still with us today, albeit the language in which the dream is described may have changed over the passage of time. I have used the term mischief, because this is the word used to describe the Diggers at the time. A contemporary letter of April 15th 1649 (1650)[1], from the Government of the day (Council of State) to “ … Mr. Pentlow, Justice of Peace for County Northampton” said:
“We approve your proceedings with the Levellers in those parts, and doubt not you are sensible of the mischief these designs tend to, and of the necessity to proceed effectively against them. If the laws in force against those who intrude upon other men’s properties, and that forbid and direct the punishing of all riotous assemblies and seditious and tumultuous meetings, be put in execution, there will not want means to preserve the public peace against attempts of this sort of people”.
In particular I draw your attention to then words “… mischief these designs tend to, and of the necessity to proceed effectively against them.” What were the Digger’s designs and actions that were so threatening that “… there will not want means to preserve the public peace”?
In a unique “Declaration of the Grounds and Reasons” issued by the Wellingborough Diggers in 1649 (1650), we have an opportunity to hear their own voice across the centuries:
Their actions were very simple:
“(We) have begun and give consent to dig up, manure and sow corn upon the Commons and Waste Ground called Bareshanks, belonging to the people of Wellinborrow by those that have subscribed and hundreds more that give consent”
Why were they taking this action?
“We are in Wellinborrow in one parish of 1169 persons that receive alms… our trading is decayed; our wives and children cry for bread; our lives are a burden to us, divers of us having 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 in family, and we cannot get bread for them by our labour. Rich men’s hearts are hardened; they will not give us if we beg at their doors. If we steal, the law will end our lives. Divers of the poor are starved to death already; and it were better for us that are living to die by the Sword than by the famine …”
How did they justify their action – what underpinned the philosophy or set of ideas that encouraged them?
“We find (in the word of God) that God made the earth for the use and comfort of all mankind, and sat him in it to till and dress it…
God never gave to any sort of people that they should have it all to themselves and shut out the rest …
We find that no creature that ever God made was deprived of the benefit of the Earth, but mankind … it is nothing but covetousness, pride and hardness of heart that hath caused man so far to degenerate.
That in the last day the oppressor and proud man shall cease and God will restore the waste places of the Earth to the use and comfort of man, and that none shall hurt or destroy in all His Holy Mountain.
We have great encouragement from two righteous Acts, which parliament of England has set forth, the one against kingly power and the other to make England a free Common-wealth”
Within a few weeks (we do not know for sure how long it lasted) the Digger enterprise in Wellingborough had been brought to an end by the forces of “law and order” – unleashed by the nice Mr. Pentlow, Justice of the Peace, on instructions from the Government of Cromwell. The Diggers’ leaders were arrested, taken to Northampton, and charged with riot and affray. After this nothing is known of what happened to them.
I don’t think it was so much what the Diggers did that rattled the ruling class of the day (is sowing seed on common land so threatening?), so much as the ideas that the declaration promoted and was spreading throughout the country. Are there resonances here of how the Occupy Movement and UK-Uncut and other movements against injustice around the world are being treated today?