See the Person
Summary of research findings
Discussion paper 2 – the impact of stigma around social housing
For initial discussion with respondents
Research carried out by the See the Person campaign has found that most people who live in social housing have direct experience of negative stereotypes and stigma and that this has an impact on their lives and the lives of neighbours, family and friends.
This paper discusses the impact of stigma only. Survey respondents also gave evidence about the impact, but this was discussed in a separate paper.
In March and April 2019, 670 people who live in social housing took part in an online survey carried out by the See the Person campaign. Participants were from across the country and were self-selected, using a snowball methodology (where one survey respondent is asked to pass the survey onto other possible respondents). The survey was set up in response to a request from the MHCLG who wanted more data around the impact of negative stereotypes.
The most common impact described was the limiting of communication. Many of these comments linked to people feeling they could not communicate openly with friends about where they live.
It can be socially isolating, I don’t like people knowing I live in social housing as I have witnessed regard for me and others changed when people know…
Avoid inviting friends over/ saying where I live.
Stereotyping tares all social housing tenants with the same brush. The impact is huge. You find yourself not wanting to say where you live as you know you will be frowned up on. The media and government think we all don’t work and scrounge from the government. This is not the case.
Others commented about the negative impact on the local community and infrastructure improvements.
Local home owners sold property and moved away, objections to planning application.
Extreme difficulty in getting problems with the infrastructure and management of the estate sorted out. Constantly hearing negative statements about our estate…
Some people noted that they were reluctant to engage with their landlord (council or housing association) because of how they are made to feel.
it makes me feel like avoiding any contact with the Council when it comes to repairs etc. I simply do not get them reported, because I am fed up with the treatment. I am an educated and articulate person.
I do not tell anyone other than those closest that our home is social rented, most will assume it is private rented, as many of these properties are having been sold off. I feel i have to keep it a secret to avoid stigma. I believe that the road has a stigma attached as a ‘poorer road’ despite being mixed tenure and a peaceful, well kept, low crime area. I dread contractors coming in to do work…as they often show little respect and express stereotypes about who or how they expect you to live. I feel as if I need to prove myself, and it is ridiculous, I shouldn’t.
I’m careful who I tell that I’m a social housing tenant as I know some people may judge me. I don’t feel any loyalty to my housing provider or that the relationship is a particularly good one. In the past I’ve been involved in events ‘showcasing’ social tenants & have been invited to tenant forums, but these days I don’t get involved as I don’t really feel engaged or valued particularly.
Some comments suggested that the negative stereotypes prompted people to give up on their local area.
Makes you not want to admit where you live, or help to keep the area nice
Others reported a strong sense of community, contradictory to the negative assumptions they hear elsewhere.
the government assume that those living in social housing have no ambition and are worthless to society. The communities where we live know better.
It makes me very annoyed as I am in social housing because my income as a teacher was insufficient to finance a mortgage but I am passionate about where I live.
Time consuming. in making me work harder at trying to change views. This is a uphill struggle especially with the lack of tenant involvement though outsourcing services
For some people, this has resulted in a need to ‘prove’ themselves or demonstrate that they do not fulfil the prevailing stereotype.
I feel I need to prove my worth
Sucks the life outta ya then u turn and think no I will show them
A serious impact on mental health was described by a high number of people. This included depression, stress and anxiety.
Serious anxiety in a place that you should feel most comfortable.
It made me feel down, after going through a difficult divorce i was already feeling down and not good enough. It was a really tough time.
It impacts on my mental health and deepens stress within my everyday life
For some people, this feeling is explicitly linked to their relationship with their landlord.
I become angry or depressed. I’m unable to contribute as an expert equal to making things better, which creates a vicious circle.
A prevailing sense of feeling judged or looked down on came through in the responses.
It doesn’t tell a true story of who people are, you are lumped into THAT bunch. People pre judge you before they know who or what you can do.
That people judge my circumstance without knowing me, they automatically assume they “know” what I’m like. I have been accused of manipulating my condition to obtain income (due to where I live). People assume vices and are surprised that I don’t drink, smoke, take drugs, etc.
I feel some people look down on me for not owning or wanting to own my own home!
For some people, this extended to feeling degraded or ashamed. These strong terms featured time and again in open ended responses about the impact of stigma.
I feel ashamed to say that I live in social housing
Ashamed of living in Local Authority Social Housing and Depressed
Feel ashamed to admit I live in social housing and unworthy to be a parent etc
I feel ashamed and embarrassed to speak about my housing situation
Feels embarrassing and shameful to tell people that my home is HA. Like I have failed somewhere even though I have worked full time all my life.
For others still, this had the impact of feeling they are not an equal part of society.
It makes me feel that I am a lesser person. No-one is supposed to judge you on your gender, race, religion or any disability etc, but you get judged because you live in social housing!
Makes me feel as though because I am a social tenant that I am not an equal member of society
It’s painful to be looked down on and to know that to some you’re a second class person.
The stigma experienced by so many people who live in social housing also has an impact on some people’s confidence.
They affect my confidence, make me frustrated and question myself
Negative stereotypes make me feel uneasy and lower my self-esteem.
degrades confidence in oneself
A significant number of people said the stigma had no impact on them personally, although most recognised an impact on others. A further group of people said they tried to ignore stigma when they experienced it.
None – I ignore them. I do think they are ignorant though.
I can shrug it off but some people can’t
I’m a strong minded person so no impact other than I can see how degrading it is for others
I’m a strong person so can brush it if but others feel they are not good enough to attend such places
It doesn’t have any impact on me. Why should I suffer for other people’s ignorance.
Very little – I’ve lived in social housing for the last 30 years by choice (including having been members, treasurer, secretary chair of a Tenants & Residents committee) & when I see negative stereotyping I try to explain my reasoning – and if they choose not to understand or abuse, I block them
A number of people described an impact on their family and children in particular.
When my eldest son was at primary school he played with triplets who we had met at mother and baby group and he had been through preschool with. They came to play at the house after school and when they were being collected the parents commented on how nice our house was and what a lovely size garden we had. I told them all the council houses in the village have large gardens they looked shocked that we were in social housing. The next day my son came home from school upset because the triplets had been told they weren’t to play with him any more (he was 8 or 9 at this point).
I pretty much keep myself to myself but, my children have been looked down on for living in a council estate and have been teased in school over it.
Children get embarrassed of what others think
Children made to feel worthless
Others described the upset caused by negative stereotyping.
It’s quite hurtful, but I know it’s not true.
Upsetting at the time
I feel sad for my children
I was upset that she presumed that we claim benefits and dont work, we always have worked.
1. Do these categories of responses seem right to you?
2. How does the impact described above resonate with you? 3.