A Manchester housing association has apologised after causing outrage by suggesting tenants should cut down on ‘Sky, cigarettes, bingo, drinks and other non-essentials’ to cope with benefit cuts.
Eastlands Homes said it was sorry if the article in its newsletter for tenants had caused offence. ‘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,’ it said in a statement.
The original newsletter read: ‘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!’
Tenants took to the internet to voice their anger at the message, which was described as ‘outrageous’.
‘It implies that all social tenants are unable to budget and will put those things first,’ wrote one commentator. ‘It implies that they need things explaining to them at a patronising level. It assumes that people on benefits are feckless and stupid rather than unlucky.’
Social housing tenants are facing a range of cuts as a result of the government’s welfare reforms, including the ‘bedroom tax’ under-occupation penalty that is due to come in from 1 April.
The statement from Eastlands said: ‘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.’