By guest writer Sue Morton
Several years ago, sick of the service we were getting from the Heating contractors used by Affinity Sutton, I set up a Facebook group for other tenants to share their stories about them. It wasn’t a very big group but it was effective and we eventually got on BBC South Today where we had the opportunity to be heard. Things certainly improved after that and the company involved lost their contract in Mid Sussex. Not long after that, Clarion took over Affinity Sutton. I didn’t close the original group I had set up, and I noticed that people were still posting – this time with complaints about Clarion Housing.
None of the Clarion Executive Seem to Care
Seeing that people needed to share experiences and get things off their chests, I set up a new group eventually settling on the name ‘Clarion Tenants Support Group’. It soon became apparent that the same issues were cropping up on a regular basis; missed appointments, anti-social behaviour, poor standards of repairs or no repairs at all, questionable service charges, appalling communication and above all, a sense that none of the executive at Clarion were listening – or even cared.
That was 18 months ago and the group is still going strong and growing in numbers. The hardest thing has been making people aware of our existence because we are a closed group, something we discovered was vital because in the early days a few Clarion employees slipped through our checks to join the group.
Many tenants are scared of potential victimisation by Clarion if they make a fuss, so feeling that we have a safe space and that they will be listened to is of paramount importance.
A Year of Detrimental Changes
Over the past 12 months Clarion Housing have introduced many new changes to the organisation of their company; changes that we tenants were never notified about in advance. These changes have so far proved to be detrimental to the tenants. We are constantly told that the computer and telephone systems have crashed, and that a high volume of calls necessitates closing phone lines for the remainder of the day. In the last week alone, Clarion’s lines of communication were down and closed early on three consecutive days. On the fourth day they closed at lunchtime for staff training.
Unacceptable Standards of Service
This standard of service from a highly resourced housing association is unacceptable in 2020. The problem seems to be that Clarion has become too big for purpose. They are no longer a hands-on, approachable organisation that looks after its tenants, but a commercial corporation run to maximise profits. The tenants are nothing more than commodities funding their activities.
Our Template Letter Can Be Used by Everyone
In growing frustration, many members of the Clarion Tenants Support Group have written to their members of Parliament (MP) for help and support, but each time Clarion send out their standard reply and rubbish any claims made against them. Now we are all taking action together. We have produced a template letter that can be used by anyone and are encouraging people to email their MP. The more MPs we contact the better. Just as we are stronger acting as a group, then so too will be the MPs representing us. All tenants, whatever housing association they are with, must be heard. The issues we are raising must be addressed.
Download our template letter here
Too Big, Too Remote
Many large housing associations like Clarion have grown too big and become too far removed from their founding aims of providing reasonably priced homes to ordinary working people. We are asking for tenants of Clarion Housing and other associations to join in with this campaign so that we can act collectively to make a change.
Let’s make those in power sit up and take notice because we are not going away!
If you are a Clarion tenant or resident and would like to make contact with the Clarion Tenants Support Group, please email SHAC who will forward your details to the group admin.
24 August 2020