Are Sanctuary Housing above the law?
April 24, 2009 670 Comments
Also see 2016 blog A nationwide scandal – Sanctuary Housing and 2014 blog Sanctuary Housing Association complaints – taking it further and others here.
Sanctuary Group (Sanctuary Housing Association) – a monster that must be stopped. An “exempt” registered charity who often lie, cheat, and bully people, including their own staff. Some services are very poor, repairs are often a bad joke, tenancy agreements are frequently broken by Sanctuary’s incompetence and bad practice. They are largely funded by the taxpayer (housing benefit, the government), tenants include some of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and poor people in Britain. Sanctuary Group (fingers in many pies) makes over £40 million surplus (=profit) every year. The Chief Executive is on £310,000 (and has now been made a CBE – Tim 2015).
In 2012, Sanctuary were awarded £90 million through the government’s Affordable Homes Programme, the highest allocation in England. In the same year in Scotland, they received similar grants of £10 million. The Chief Executive has spoken of “delivery of 5000 homes at a combined capital investment of £750 million over the next four years”. Sanctuary completed its takeover of Cosmopolitan Housing Group in March 2013, creating the UK’s largest social landlord, with 95,000 homes owned and managed.
“A scandal which should be exposed.”
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith and Shadow Justice Minister, May 2011 – on the performance and unaccountability of large housing associations, at the House of Commons.
“Tenants who pay their rent should be entitled to expect their landlord to address failings in a speedy way, but it looks like Sanctuary is falling well short of that.” Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St. Austell and Newquay in Cornwall, February 2013. “Sanctuary Midlands is letting its customers down… It hasn’t focused on what results it is getting and whether these are effective… The Association needs to do much more to ensure that services perform well.” Ann Bennett, Audit Commission Lead Housing Inspector, April 2010 “One of the worst housing associations I have had to deal with… useless.” Tim Loughton on Sanctuary, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham in Sussex, late 2008.
Sanctuary Housing Association was originally founded as The World Of Property Housing Trust by Francis Bennion (according to his website he’s still vice-president of Sanctuary, although there’s no mention of him on Sanctuary’s website) in 1969. Support came from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Institute of British Architects, several MPs including the then Secretary of State for the Environment Peter Walker, billionaire Paul Getty, many other very rich and very influential people, and big support from Prince Philip and the Queen – including a personal financial donation. Oddly, Sanctuary seem to have kept this rather quiet – all a bit masonic perhaps? The Church of England Pensions Board recently signed a £250,000 contract with Sanctuary Group. Are these apparently strong links to the government and “the Establishment” the reason why no-one will hold Sanctuary to account?
(See 20th August 2011 comment for more info and link – Tim)
If you have a genuine case (whether you are a tenant, relative, student, front line or management employee, property-owning neighbour, or anyone else), please don’t give up. By standing up to Sanctuary Housing Group you are also helping many others in similar situations. Don’t be intimidated by their uselessness, lies, threats, and the problems of getting your voice heard.
DON’T GIVE UP!
Sanctuary head office
Sanctuary Group head office, Sanctuary House, Chamber Court, Castle Street, WORCESTER, WR1 3ZQ
Phone: 01905 334000
Rather than just the above or local-ish offices, impersonal e-mails or call centres, or their long-winded and very very dodgy “Complaints Procedure”, you might have more luck with the following direct Sanctuary Housing Group phone numbers and contacts at Worcester:-
Group Director for Housing and Communities, Simon Clark
Direct dial: 01905 334064 Extension: 34064 Mobile: 07894 599107 Email: email@example.com Unfortunately, Mr. Clark clearly demonstrated Sanctuary’s now legendary arrogance and state of total denial on BBC television (Inside Out South West, 18.2.13), in relation to Sanctuary’s diabolical treatment of a group of tenants living in homes officially assessed as legally unfit for habitation.
Senior PA to Simon Clark, Claire Griffiths
Direct dial: 01905 334167 Fax: 01905 334956
Director of Sanctuary Home Care & Extra Care, Donna Culley
Direct dial: 01905 334091 Mobile: 07900 160602
Assistant to Chief Executive David Bennett, Heidi Hodgkin
Worth knowing her name if you’re trying to make contact with Chief Executive David Bennett, who is based at the Worcester address.
TRY EVERYTHING AND DON’T GIVE UP!
If you have been on the receiving end of Sanctuary’s uselessness/lies/threats – don’t just moan on this blog! GO TO YOUR MP – they are paid to represent you!
Or go to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau.
Or write to your local or national newspaper – FOR THE SAKE OF EVERYONE ELSE – PLEASE DO IT!
Some tenants get results by going to the Housing Ombudsman, but many people’s experience is that they are a waste of time.
BBC WATCHDOG (many, many people have complained about Sanctuary but no interest at all so far – Tim 2015)
Watchdog, W1 NBH 07C, BBC New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA.
Panorama, Zone D, 4th Floor, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, UK, W1A 1AA
Here’s a different point of view, expressed anonymously and not altogether convincingly – note the dismissive tone towards vulnerable and disadvantaged people but perhaps he/she is just doing his/her best in a difficult job?
“I’ve worked in complaints on and off for 30 years and let me make something clear to you, 7/10 people make stuff up or get it totally wrong hence their complaints are never upheld.
How about releasing the results of 20k of sanctuary residents from last year on how they view the service? The results were that the majority were satisfied with Sanctuary in many areas polled. 92 on this blog versus 20,000 – YOU DECIDE. If you are going to blog, at least be open minded and impartial.”
A “majority” in “many areas”, this is a bit vague isn’t it? And Sanctuary has over 70,000 tenants (95,000 since the takeover of Cosmopolitan in 2013, Tim), what about the other 50,000? Yes, people only have to read through a few posts here to make up their own minds about Sanctuary, no doubt about that. Obviously the posts on this blog are not the whole story – that’s probably even worse!
In 2009-10, according to page 18 of their annual report, not-for-profit charity Sanctuary Group made a “surplus” (i.e. profit) of £23.8 million. During 2010-11, profits went up to £24.7 million. Since the takeover of Cosmopolitan, profits have soared to £72 million for the year 2012-13.
Legally, no tax is paid on this.
Much of the multi-million pound profit comes from the government and the taxpayer in the form of housing benefit from some of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and poor people in Britain.
In 2009, with the help of Barclays Capital hedge fund, Sanctuary issued £200 million pounds of bonds. These were secured against the group’s rented housing. In April 2012, a further £300 million pounds of bonds were issued. Not-for-profit casino banking anyone?
There may be one or two people out there who wondered what happened to the devastating noise disturbance situation my ex-partner and I were going through in 2007 and 2008.
Eventually the housing association concerned moved their tenant out (The second crazy teenage anti-social behaviour nightmare in two years – we were attacked and threatened on our doorstep, with loud screaming and swearing at all hours, amongst other things. There was a hint that the tenant had previously had an ASBO, we never found out for sure…), they properly sound-proofed the flat below ours, and their unfortunate local manager moved on. My ex is now being treated with the respect that any innocent member of the public deserves. She does actually own her flat after all!
It took five visits to our local MP Tim Loughton, a few ridiculous meetings with Sanctuary Housing, and well over twenty letters to Sanctuary and various other organizations (eventually including the now defunct Housing Corporation, West Sussex Supporting People, and the head of local police) before they took us and several of our neighbours seriously. The police and the local council were reluctant to get involved, although they were helpful at times, especially the supportive but ultimately powerless PCSOs. “It’s not a police matter”, we were repeatedly told. The Environmental Health recorder didn’t get results. No-one seemed to be seriously bothered about the stinking “skunk” cannabis, we wouldn’t have minded ourselves if they’d kept their windows closed.
For over a year, Sanctuary Housing’s behaviour was astonishing:- blatant bullying tactics, lies, dishonest back-covering and incompetence by several managers (fortunately we had evidence of this – you really should be ashamed of yourselves local manager Peter Jackson, Sanctuary Supported Housing head Tim Susans and regional manager Wendy Fletcher, what were you doing? Astrid Kjellberg-Obst and Steve Wood of Sanctuary Care Limited, is all this okay with you?), local and national offices ignoring many of our letters including a very reasonable one sent through their complaints procedure, contradictions and lack of clarity about what the law actually was on more than one occasion, written false representations of what we had written to make it mean the opposite i.e. outrageously manipulative lies, the back-tracking on their original offer of sound-proofing, the accusation that we had not been co-operating with West Sussex Mediation Services – when in fact they themselves were preventing this from proceeding by not returning the mediation people’s phone calls.
Presumably they thought they could bully us into shutting up? It was obvious there was a real long-term problem but they preferred to try and make us look unreasonable for daring to complain. In the meantime my partner had serious depression, migraine headaches and I virtually had a nervous breakdown both before and after moving out. Both of us had problems at work due to exhaustion and ultimately our relationship itself did not survive the nightmare. The neighbours across the road, a lovely friendly retired elderly couple, were extremely upset by their complaints not being taken seriously.
“Sanctuary Housing? Oh no!”, said a nurse friend of mine when I told her about all this. “They kept ignoring several serious complaints and sending us threatening letters when I was in their student accommodation in Brighton. Being a student nurse was hard enough already, the university had to get involved on our behalf, it was a nightmare”. So much for Sanctuary Management Services, their student branch. We and our MP couldn’t help wondering how many other people up and down the country have been on the receiving end of Sanctuary Housing Group’s grotesque and morally bankrupt unprofessionalism. And just plain indifference.
On their website, Sanctuary Housing describe themselves as “An industry leading social enterprise helping to set standards across the entire sector” (They’ve since dropped this headline but the attitude is still there, TB). In his patronizing, clueless and ill-informed letter of denial TO OUR MP, boss Chief Executive David Bennett couldn’t even be bothered to get our address right, apparently confusing us with a Sanctuary property in Berkshire.
According to an article from The Guardian in September 2003, the Chief Executive of this “not-for-profit” organization was at that time receiving over £200,000 per year from tax-payers money.
(According to another national newspaper 25.9.09, as head of this exempt charity, Chief Executive David Bennett is unbelievably now on £288,000. A social housing fat cat, the equivalent of a greedy banker. He is third on the list in this article:-
£288,000 for someone who, in his letter to our MP, showed himself and Sanctuary up as totally incompetent and arrogant!? September 2010 update – he’s now on £285,446. September 2013, £310,000. He was made a CBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list – an absolute disgrace.)
The money is obviously rolling in as they expand their “not-for-profit” empire, around 80,000 (95,000 since March 2013) homes making them the biggest Registered Social Landlord (RSL) in the country. Thanks for sorting out our situation in the end Sanctuary, but our life together was destroyed in the meantime.
Yes, all the above is actually true! No full apology or explanation was ever offered. Useless. Uncaring. Arrogant. Disgusting.