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Reaction to Dispatches shows the sector is divided and losing focus

Claims that a large number of housing associations are turning their back on social purpose are untrue and divisive – it is time to come together, writes Victor da Cunha

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Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty

Curo chief executive @victor_dacunha warns #ukhousing not to be distracted from ‘loud and angry’ critics #dispatches #ukhousing @Curo_Group

Housing associations are not turning their back on social purpose in any great numbers, writes @victor_dacunha #ukhousing @Curo_Group

Curo CEO @victor_dacunha likens the housing association sector to a football team arguing among itself #ukhousing #dispatches

Have you ever seen a football team concede a goal then drop their heads and begin to argue amongst themselves? It normally never turns out well does it?

If a team allows itself to go down that path, it’s generally the end of the game.

Well motivated, focused and driven teams not only absorb a robust challenge but also – the really great ones anyway – come back reinvigorated.

They have a united purpose and that’s more important than what might have gone wrong momentarily.

The recent Dispatches programme is, in my opinion, yet another goal suffered against team housing association.

We’re not perfect as a sector, of course we’re not, fair criticism of issues like excessive executive pay-offs have to be accepted as damaging and wrong.

But from what I saw on social media straight afterwards, team housing association is now well and truly losing focus; with as many commentators joining in with the bashing of the sector as those calling for a more nuanced thoughtful assessment.

“Ninety nine point nine percent of our sector knows our social purpose, are here because of it and are driven by it.”

Sadly, we did not rise above Channel 4’s bad line call to focus on the bigger challenge – on our common purpose.

At a time where the sector has never been more important to society, divisions are becoming apparent.

There are tensions split broadly along the lines of those who liked the simplicity of the old model and hark back to the good old days – including voices interviewed by Dispatches – against those actually doing the work, pragmatically trying to keep the show on the road and still delivering within the new rules and constraints.

I’ve always been incredibly impressed by the diversity of the sector and the various ways we all go about trying to fulfil our social purpose.

Never have I doubted the authenticity of the vast majority of those who work within it, 99.9% of our sector knows our social purpose, are here because of it and are driven by it.

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That’s why I’ve been shocked by those who assert that a sizeable proportion of the sector is somehow turning its back on social purpose.

This is plainly divisive and untrue.

If Channel 4 had made even the smallest attempt to present the other side of the argument, this would have been plain to see. The programme arrived with a pre-formed agenda and we should resist its rabble-rousing, sensationalist nature – balanced it is not.

We certainly do have questions to address, but to my mind identifying the issues to resolve and work on them together seems the only sensible way to go about it.

We need to respond to the challenges of little subsidy, reducing rents, a crisis of confidence and trust and – most importantly – the over-politicising of our core function.

We need to tell our story a lot better – if we can help people understand, I firmly believe they will support us.

“Let’s please not allow the loud and angry to distract from the job at hand.”

But does anyone really think that arguing among your own teammates is the right way to overcome these fundamental issues?

If we’re going to sort out our reputation, improve tenant confidence and deliver more social housing as a sector, the only way is to come together, unite, around what we believe in.

Let’s please not allow the loud and angry to distract from the job at hand.

We’re stronger together and I, for one, will work with those prepared to help toil, fix and deliver for our tenants.

Victor da Cunha, chief executive, Curo Group

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