Bedroom tax: just stop smoking and drinking says housing association

Eastlands homes newsletter about bedroom tax The latest issue of Streets Ahead, the newsletter of housing association Eastlands Homes in Manchester has this advice on dealing with the bedroom tax.

“Can you really afford Sky, cigarettes, bingo, drinks and other non essentials? If your benefit is being cut and you want to keep your home you have to make up the difference. Non-essential items won’t matter if you lose your home. Start budgeting now – we can help you do this, call us!”

This is outrageous for several reasons. It implies that all social housing tenants are unable to budget and will put those things first. It implies that they need things explaining to them at such a patronising level. It assumes that people on benefits are feckless and stupid rather than unlucky. It refers to cutting out everything nice in your life as “budgeting”. It assumes that people even could afford those things in the first place without scrimping and saving. It assumes that no person on housing benefit should ever have even minor luxuries, the tiniest of nice things. That poor people should sit in a corner, shut up, stare at the wall with no TV on it, never go out socially, and wait for their miserable existence to end.

I want to see an apology and a retraction from Eastlands Homes for this insulting language and perpetuating of stereotypes.

Eastlands Homes are on Facebook and Twitter.

Update 2013-03-18 13:30

Eastlands Homes have put out an apology of sorts. Unfortunately it’s a “sorry if you were offended” which implies it’s your fault rather than a “sorry we got it wrong”.

An Apology


We’re sorry if our article offended you.

We’ve lobbied continuously against the government cuts which threaten the quality of life for many of our customers. We’ve increased the range of support and advice for anyone struggling in the face of these cuts as you will see from our newsletter.
We know there will be stark choices – our message is that we are here to help wherever possible and we’re sorry if we worded that clumsily.

The offence isn’t caused by their wording. The offence is caused by the whole view that they have of their tenants that their statement betrays.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

14 thoughts on “Bedroom tax: just stop smoking and drinking says housing association”

  1. I would gladly give up my so called luxuries any day in exchange for my health problems to go away…Perhaps I could do an exchange with these cretins that even thought up these cost saving techniques for six months and then come back and insult our intelligence..Perhaps they should send something similar to mp’s that want a 28% pay increase because they can’t manage on the hundreds of thousands they already get in wages & perks that they also get out of tax payers money every year..But guess that’s different cos MP’s really earn they’re keep eh..Yeah right!!!!

  2. I want to snark about drinks being “non-essentials” – there have been times when being able to self-medicate with cheap wine has saved me from doing worse damage to myself. What a pile of crap.

    1. Too right. There are often times when whisky is the only thing that stops the pain, and times when I can’t have any more “proper” painkillers that day.

  3. Have you seen their video? Talking Owl, Dogs and budgies! Obviously their residents are too ‘immature’ to be addressed by a real person explaining these changes? I am also surprised there was not cheap booze, fags etc littering the animals tables to further perpetuate the ugly stereotypes portrayed in the magazine. Truly patronising, stigmatising and empathyless approach from this HA.

  4. “can you really afford the tiny number of things you allow yourself to have so you can actually enjoy your life beyond existing? Are you sure? Do you need mental health, a social life, the occasional joy of being able to treat your grandkids to the pictures? Do you really think you can afford or deserve joy?”
    That’s pretty much what that appears to say (also, well done on picking up particularly associated with being working class/relatively cheap “wastes” of money (i.e. bingo). Also, “drinks”- not expensive drinks, not even necessarily alcoholic ones. But can you really afford to waste money on the branded fizzy drink you might treat yourself to on the way home?
    I’m on ESA, DLA and Housing Benefit. I am regularly playing the game where my (employed, not cohabiting with me but we share some living costs) boyfriend and I try and work out how many calories/things necessary to nutrition that helps us function we can buy for the money we have in change, on us, now, to feed us for most of the week. There are times I have insomnia, and my entire boy is gripped with anxiety, and then I remember that it might be the fact that I’m hungry. Like, is it possible to make Sainsburys basics instant mash, with no real milk (can’t afford it, live alone so powdered lasts better), no butter, and basically nothing else into something which well allow me to relax enough/get enough oral stimulation in form of taste that I can sleep until the shops open. Or should I walk the mile and a half to the one shop I know is open and from which I can get some own brand/budget jellied sweets. Oh, I also have savings, and I treated my mum to a theatre ticket for mother’s day last week, and bought my former housemate (currently studying in LA) an interflora bouquet for Valentines day. Because I enjoy doing things like that, it’s part of what makes life actually bearable. No, fun. No, wait, the coalition has stamped on so many things that I think it is genuinely that things that used to be fun now Make Life Bearable.

    1. Instant mash? Cook some potatos yourself you thick twat. Jelly sweets? How about an apple or, gasp, some vegetables?

      Jesus Christ.

      1. “take benefits”! You patronising idiot. Do you understand what our National Insurance payments are taken for? They are a right and an entitlement, paid for by those that can. This is why they are called benefits and not charity We as a nation, pay them. They are willingly paid by the majority to ensure that we do not return to the days before the Welfare System, when people were forced to depend on handouts and feared being evicted because they had no money… Oh, wait, it appears that this government is sending us back to Dickensian times.

  5. Disgusting propaganda that there should be a law against! I am shocked but not surprise that a housing associate resorted to such dirty, ill thought out tactics…Is it a conservingonlythemselves council?

  6. I’m an Eastlands tenant. I have a disability, I live alone and my home is adapted. However, I won’t be affected by the bedroom tax as I don’t claim HB. But I want to say that I am deeply ashamed of my landlord, not to mention disgusted, embarrassed and angry. A small change in my circumstances and I too could be one of their lazy, feckless, smoking, drinking, bingo-playing, subscription-TV-watching claimant tenants. So I’m siding with all Eastlands tenants who have been so maligned by our landlord. Sorry for posting anon – I can’t afford to risk jeopardising my tenancy for speaking out but I do want the world to know that those of us not facing the ghastly choices imposed by this hateful tax and who are housed by Eastlands do not condone our landlord’s views.

  7. As a credit union volunteer, whilst perhaps the wording may have been clumsy, I can understand what the housing association were trying to get across in this message. You could say they were just asking a question which could be answered “No I can’t afford those things now and won’t in the future” or “Yes I can afford them, thank you.” It was a question – not a statement. I’m sure the idea of the notice was to encourage tenants to take advantage of their budgeting advice. The defence given on Radio 4’s today programme this morning seemed reasonable enough to me. The reality is that a huge number of people are going to receive significant changes to their income in the very immediate future. Whether this is right or wrong is not the issue here. Being as prepared as possible for any up coming change in income is always worthwhile. Living hand-to-mouth week by week is difficult, as so many folk on benefits are all to aware. One the whole, the lower the income, the better someone is at budgetting – because you simply have to be. Many people would have no idea what their weekly or monthly budget would look like, or where their money goes each month. Folk on benefits and very low incomes are much much better at this (because it’s essential in order to be able to do stuff like eat) but sometimes a little bit of help can show where the odd pound here or there can maybe be saved, allowing a little bit of space for that unknown expense down the road. If good advice and support stops next month’s payday loan, it can only be a good thing. There are many people would describe such advice as having been “life saving”. Such advice generally involves building up a relationship first, investing time into getting to know someone, their situation and their particular needs. Local volunteer led credit unions can do this, but need more help doing it.

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