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Housing Association'sĀ Horrors Exposed

JANUARY 13, 2020

Many people viewed with horror the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Monday night, with its images of mouldy walls, rotten windows, damp rooms, flooded light fittings, rotting floors and general disrepair. The programme, entitled ‘New Landlords from Hell’, alleged that Sanctuary Housing Group’s tenants were deliberately left to languish in homes not fit for purpose, with two cases highlighted in particular. One concerned a young child with a respiratory disease which his parents claimed had been caused by living with toxic mould and damp. Another described the tragic case of an old man left without heating during cold weather, leading, his son believes, to his death from a lung infection.

The programme highlighted the outgoing CEO’s salary of £350K per year plus benefits, and the group’s £198m operating surplus in 2018. Affordability was therefore no excuse for the appalling disrepair. Instead, the programme blamed the association’s increasing disregard for housing those in need, its original social purpose, in favour of developing simply for sale to the highest bidder. This has generated a culture of disdain for tenants’ needs amongst its executive, most of whom are from the private and banking sectors.

See the programme here

But our members’ experiences testify that it is not only the tenants who are treated with contempt by the super-sized landlord. It is the staff too.

Sanctuary Care: Not Caring About Care Staff!

Sanctuary Care has started consulting its staff about an “Employment Offer” that displays staggering corporate hypocrisy towards hardworking staff caring for the most vulnerable in society. Their booklet boasts of how their staff have established Sanctuary as “a leading provider of quality care across England and Scotland”, but proposes a series of deep cuts to pay and conditions. It claims to want to ensure “the future attraction and retention of quality staff”, but intends to do this by making care homes less attractive places to work.

Unite members have agreed to fight these changes. Unite members say no to Sanctuary’s offer!

We heard our members’ horror stories at a packed meeting of Sanctuary members last week. The staff had transferred to the Sanctuary care homes from a London council, but the employer now wants to implement a downward harmonisation which involves reducing annual leave from 29 days to 20, cutting bank holiday payments, and extending the working week from 36 to 39 hours (equating to an additional 156 hours per year FTE with no extra pay). There are also proposals to cut other benefits, for example a free meal after working a 12 hour shift.

Most sickening of all, given the vulnerability of care home residents is the employer’s intention to reduce sick leave from six months on full-pay and six months on half-pay, to just three weeks on full-pay after two to five years’ service, and six weeks on full pay after five years’ service. Even this miserable offering will only kick in after the first 3 days. We can be sure that the Executive are not being ‘offered’ such stingy terms.

These measures will harm the residents as well as the staff, driving out many of the more experienced, well-qualified workers who can most easily find alternative employment, forcing others to work when they are unwell, and increasing burn-out by reducing time off from physically and emotionally demanding work.

Instead of these unnecessary and draconian changes, Unite members demanded an upward harmonisation, with all staff transferred to the equivalent of the local government terms and conditions. They want paid breaks for all staff on all shifts, and a 10% pay rise across the board. The members are angry, determined, and confident that they can win.

For more details, contact Unite Housing Workers Branch Secretary (LE1111), [email protected]

To learn more about the Unite Housing Workers Branch, visit

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