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Taking a message to London

A Porthleven community stalwart, and much respected Coastline Housing customer and Non Executive Director, is travelling to London to back a new campaign aiming to change public perceptions about the sort of people who live in social housing.

 

Sue Roberts is travelling to the capital with Allister Young, Chief Executive of Coastline Housing and one of the campaign sponsors today (28th February).

 

Together, Sue, Allister and others will meet with their MPs for the launch of Benefit to Society - a campaign that aims to change public perceptions about who lives in social housing.

 

A national survey showed that more than 90% of social housing tenants feel they are portrayed in a negative way. Now they are asking their elected representatives to take action. Cornwall’s local MPs are being asked by tenants to sign up to an online pledge, which can be found at www.benefittosociety.co.uk/pledge and to meet with them at the campaign launch.

 

Allister Young, Chief Executive of Coastline Housing said, “Many of us working or living in social housing are really fed up of the negative, unfair and untrue stereotypes that are too often presented. Social housing gives people a decent home that is affordable and secure. It allows people to get on with the rest of their lives and to achieve great things. It’s time for those stories to be heard.”

 

Campaign organiser and Director of Tpas (Tenant Engagement experts), Leslie Channon says, “We know that 70% of people living in social housing are in work or retired. Only 7% are unemployed. The remainder of people are unable to work because they are carers or due to disability. Yet if you believed the media portrayal and the awful language used about where people live like ‘sink estates’ you would have a very different and biased view. Benefit to Society is about setting the record straight.”

 

As a customer Non-Executive Director of Coastline Housing, Sue sees first-hand the importance of removing unhelpful and negative stigmas within the industry and is herself a shining example of how a secure home with a housing association allowed her to achieve fantastic things in her life.

 

Sue first came to Cornwall in 1970 to complete her Naval training as a Wren Meteorological Observer at RNAS Culdrose and, within two years, became an Acting Local Leading Wren. Prior to joining the Royal Navy she trained as a Pharmacy Technician, dispensing prescriptions.

 

A marriage breakdown led her into social housing. She explains: “I became a social housing tenant when my husband walked out on us and left nothing but debts and our house was repossessed. I have thanked God every day since for giving us a roof over our heads and allowing us to concentrate on working to pay the rent.”

 

Sue has always been keen to do voluntary work and change lives for the better. In 2004 she travelled to Malawi and Mozambique as a volunteer with an international aid charity to see how the money being raised locally in Cornwall was spent on sustainable farming and education programmes in these countries.

 

In 2006, she travelled to Romania with others from a local church group to run a summer camp. Sue says: “Both experiences were pretty amazing and have stayed with me over the years.”

 

Her last job pre-retirement saw her travelling to Costa Rica, where she worked for 10 months training a workforce in quality control of products the company had previously made in Redruth.

 

Since retirement, Sue continues to volunteer at her local Mustard Seed café (which helps less independent people build up vital life skills), her local food bank, Helston Railway, Helston Museum and the Home Library Service (part of the RVS). She also belongs to a local ladies community choir and has recently been asked to join the Church pastoral visiting team.

 

The launch event will also see the unveiling of new research carried out by Professor Anne Power of the LSE. This suggests that the reduction in social housing from around 30% of the country’s housing stock to around 17%, has had a negative impact on the wider public perception of who lives in social housing. The assumption is often that it’s a tenure of last choice. However, analysis of qualitative data from tenants shows that the reality is that social housing provides good quality homes for a wide range of people.

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