Kate on stage at the event

Kate Walker, a council tenant from Whitefield, addressed a housing conference in Birmingham about the importance of tackling social housing stereotypes on a local level. 

As one of the drivers of the local We Benefit Bury initiative, Kate was invited to talk at the National Federation of ALMOs conference on 12th April 2019 about how damaging the negative stigma of council tenants can be and how she believes housing providers can help tenants address this.

A copy of Kate's speech on the speaker table at the event

A full transcript of Kate's speech is below. 

"My name is Kate Walker and I run the Talk To Me café at an extra care scheme in Prestwich on a voluntary basis. The café aims to help local people in challenging situations, such as those who are ill and their carers, as I know this can be isolating. I want the cafe to provide a friendly, welcoming place where visitors can meet other people and find out any information they need.

Six Town Housing had already helped me apply for funding and promoted the café. They contacted me and asked if I wanted to be an ambassador for We Benefit Bury. When I was 18 years old I moved north to live with my fiancé and his parents in a council house and in those times there was quite a stigma regarding these estates. I live in a council house again now and the negative attitudes are still around.

Kate with a board at the conference, containing facts about We Benefit Bury

There is no need for the stereotyping of people living in council housing, because tenants are no different from any other people who own their home or rent privately, you get a mix of people whatever community you live in.

People live in council housing have their own reasons for doing so and some of these reasons can very sad, so it is very unfair and unhelpful that the media often focusses on the largely mythical “scrounger” figures or the idea of a “chav” and rarely on more rounded and realistic depictions of council tenants.

These depictions only serve to create a “them and us” situation and there should definitely be more rounded depictions of council tenants.

A lot of tenants feel the same about this as I do. While there are a lot of us, there’s not really any platform for us to speak up. Social media can unite people who have never met before and We Benefit Bury has helped others see that they are not alone in thinking the stereotypes are unjust. Tenants have been able to share posts from ambassadors and comment underneath them, and by doing so their own friends can see that they are unhappy with the way tenants can be treated.

Hopefully this will give them the confidence to speak up offline too, as I think that is something that is key and needed. People need to voice their opinions in communities and try to tell people how they feel and this might be the encouragement they need.

I think housing companies should provide something similar to We Benefit Bury to tenants. You have social media followers that are mostly tenants, so why not use this channel to give them the opportunity to show they can speak up against the stigma together. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak today."

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