A nationwide scandal – Sanctuary Housing

Sanctuary

Time to expose this relentlessly appalling organization and others like it.

See 2019 blog Deaths, incompetence and lies – the multimillion pound housing associations destroying lives

It’s now 2016 and as you can see below, Sanctuary Housing are still up to their tricks. There is no effective regulation stopping them, so they can keep getting away with it – the likes of the Homes and Communities Agency and the Housing Ombudsman have no serious interest in complaints. This is a nationwide corporate rip-off scandal (so far almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media) if ever there was one. I have heard that some of the other large housing groups can be just as bad e.g. Hyde Housing, Affinity Sutton, Metropolitan and others. Perhaps all part of the Conservative government’s long-term plans to privatise social housing? Run it all into the ground and bring in non-affordable affordable homes and more private landlords to save the day? And generally make the housing crisis worse? In the meantime people are suffering – big time.

If you have had serious problems with Sanctuary Housing or Sanctuary Group, please join the independent facebook group, from which the edited posts here are taken. It offers support and advice from others who have suffered at the hands of Sanctuary Housing – the incompetence, the frequent breaking of tenancy agreements, the threats, the lies and all the rest of it. (To Sanctuary staff who genuinely do their best, keep up the good work. I know from my own experience that it’s not an easy area to work in.) The group now has over 600 members:-

Sanctuary Housing Independent Complaints Group – Countrywide (over 800 members as at December 2016)

poundsignukSince I first came across them in 2008, it has become obvious that thousands of people (including the elderly and vulnerable) have had their lives ruined by this frequently uncaring and incompetent organization. Unbelievably, Sanctuary is a registered charity – so they don’t pay tax. Even more unbelievably, Chief Executive David Bennett was made a CBE for services to social housing in 2015. Given the Sanctuary performance shown below, perhaps he is now due for a knighthood?

Sanctuary Group Executive.David Bennett FCA, CCMI, Group Chief Executive.For Sanctuary Group

Sanctuary Chief Executive, David Bennett. £340K and a CBE in 2015 – for THIS!? (see below)

Sanctuary Group make millions. For the year 2013-2014, the landlord reported a surplus of £42.6 million. (Inside Housing 1.10.14)

In one way or another, thousands of people in their 100,000 homes are being shafted by this company. Do everything you can, an e-mail to Watchdog achieves nothing by itself. Go through their complaints procedure until you are completely satisfied, or write to your MP and make sure they follow it through, contact local and national media with detailed documentation, go to Citizens Advice, Environmental Health, local councillors. Try to stay calm and strong, you are not alone! Demand that Sanctuary stop causing you and others so much suffering. Please do it people, don’t let them bully you.

Here is the link to the facebook group again:- Sanctuary Housing Independent Complaints Group – Countrywide

A typical complaint on Twitter

A typical complaint on Twitter

A SMALL SAMPLE OF COMPLAINTS FROM JANUARY AND FEBRUARY 2016

“We beat them once in court, now winning again. They are only interested in their bank balance not our children’s safety”

“I was waiting 12 years (in the end I gave up and moved out) and they blamed me for breathing moisture/being in flat all day….I worked 65 hours a week so how did they figure that out! They are now charging me for repairs as it was “my fault”. If the damp issues were my fault, why do almost all Sanctuary properties have problem with damp and my new home that I’ve lived in for a year now doesn’t?…..funny that x”

“Still no hot water as a tiny piece of metal had pierced the hot water pipe when it went bang… Communication was rubbish the whole time me having to chase them all this while having a 3 yr old..wouldn’t even put us in a bnb!! Sanctuary housing do not care.”

“Yesterday I found out I may need my entire ground floor digging up and replacing because there may not be a membrane down or it could have corroded. Also had to call them back because despite new parts on my hot water tank, the hot water is off and still turning on all night because something isn’t doing its job properly. The boiler was serviced a few weeks ago too and had a new seal but now it’s making a whistling tune when it fires up. Very nice, but I worry about carbon monoxide because I’ve been poisoned before. I don’t need to worry about something that should be working properly.”

“I went 13 months before they decided to replace my boiler and then they only did it as my health visitor phoned them!”

“This is the worst housing association. I have been without water for 4 days which they don’t think it’s an emergency. I call burst pipes emergency not only that they have put charges on the rent an extra few quid a week coz they planted a few flowers somewhere. I say somewhere coz nobody as seen them and they charge for window cleaning and I’ve lived here for 3 years and not once have anyone come round to clean them how are they getting away with treating people like this it’s a f***ing joke.”

“Anyone know a contact for these useless people regarding a compensation claim? I’ve called 3 times and keep being told to call the repairs dept……”

Twitter3“Yeah we have damp in every room in this house especially up stairs we also have plaster dust in the house everywhere in every room all over in all the carpets and I mean absolutely everywhere, in and on everything even in the house wee have all been breathing it in for the last 10 YEARS and we all have infections from it and it’s been here for ten years.”

“So have become a sanctuary tenant after a mutual exchange.. Wish I hadn’t bothered!! What a waste of time totally incompetent company. It’s been a farce from start to finish! Really annoyed at the amount of repairs that need doing that they fail to acknowledge. Yet are quick to inform me that if I dare to install an electric shower, at my cost, they will have to inspect it to make sure it’s done properly and looks nice.. Yet the bathroom it’s going into is really old, with blown tiles hanging off and massive chips out of the bath.. But that’s ok?? F***ing idiots.”

“Sanctuary has served eviction notice on a mum with 2 young children. Heartless and shocking. Calls itself a charity. Calls itself Sanctuary. Oh and it’s jobsworths being pedantic…. We have contacted Sanctuary Housing, local MP and submitted homeless application with council. Looks like they will be sent to a B&B. Sanctuary have been awful.”

“Apparently Sanctuary believe this is not something that needs addressing as soon as possible, despite 2 young children and myself living in this with asthma…”

“Apparently sanctuary believe this is not something that needs addressing as soon a possible dispite 2 young children and my self living in this with asthma …. I don’t know what to say I’m upset and angered by there lack of help… I won’t give up I just hate it when they put pressure on you and try to make you look like an idiot … I’m not that clued up on everything to know what’s what. This place is tearing me apart I literally sit there and cry because no one seems to do anything and how this place is practically falling to bits around me and I can’t get out. I’m already in touch with the mp and it doesn’t sound like there is much he can do from what he said … I will ask about the windows …. to top it off we have storage heaters too so it is unbelievably expensive …. we have many other issues with this place too … it’s like a living hell

 “Good luck getting anything done with them… go straight to your mp … honestly we have been fighting for so long and nothing has been done it’s not worth the stress just place a complaint and maintenance request over the phone and keep all of the reference numbers logged down in a diary and take them to your mp or local housing office. It’s really not worth our time to go through sanctuary. They simply couldn’t care less about any of their tenants or their own contracts.
investor

Sanctuary Group’s new chairman, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) and corporate Britain

Jonathan Lander and David Bennett of Sanctuary Group

New Chair Jonathan Lander (ex-PwC) and David Bennett, Chief Executive of Sanctuary

As the Sanctuary Housing Facebook page continues to regularly delete large numbers of complaints (many of them serious and long-standing, others complaining of Sanctuary Housing Association’s general incompetence and/or fascist tendencies in one way or another) all appears to be well at the top of the corporate world of Sanctuary Group.

Last month it was announced that Jonathan Lander, a former senior partner with internationally huge accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is the new group Chair. Smiles from Mr. Lander and Chief Executive David Bennett in the press release, it’s all jolly good news. Bennett said: “Sanctuary is known for its exemplary governance (many tenants will be asking what planet he’s on – the organization on the front line is often a total shambles at best) and these new appointments ensure the group board continues to have the skills and experience required to oversee our complex organisation.”

PoundSignUKLander said he was “enthusiastic” about working with Bennett and the board “to deliver customer-focused services that represent real value for money”. There’s a good few thousand elderly, disabled and vulnerable people who are being badly ripped-off (or who have been abused in other ways) by Sanctuary who might have something to say about that last comment. Please see other blogs here for many personal accounts, details and newspaper reports of overcharging, nationwide abuse and neglect, cheating, bullying, lies, bad services, incompetent contractors and substandard properties left to rot for years.

On 2nd October, there was further shuffling at Sanctuary with the appointment of Elwyn Roberts (also ex-PwC) as the new Chair of the Sanctuary Audit Committee. Steve Wood, head of Sanctuary Care resigned the following day, Sanctuary now has him listed as Director of Property.

pwclogoPwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), “independent” auditors to Sanctuary Housing Association and just about every other big company in the UK and America

As can be seen in Sanctuary Group’s financial statement for 2013-2014, PwC are Sanctuary’s independent auditors. Hang on a bit… two ex-PwC men are now at the very top of Sanctuary, Lander having been a senior partner until 2008. Exactly how independent is that? (KPMG, another government-linked massive firm, have since become Sanctuary Group’s auditors… Tim, 2017)

Elwyn Roberts, also ex-PwC, new Chair of Audit Committee

Elwyn Roberts, also ex-PwC, new Chair of Sanctuary’s Audit Committee

PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) is one of the Big Four accountancy firms who between them carry out around 90% of all audits for FTSE 350 companies. They are absolutely massive in the UK (see pwc.co.uk), America and internationally. “In the 2014 financial year, PwC firms provided services to 417 companies in the Fortune Global 500 and 462 in the FT Global 500… For the year ending 30 June 2014, PwC’s gross revenues were US$34 billion, up 6%.” (see pwc.com). However, in 2011 they were heavily criticized by the House of Lords for not drawing attention to the risks that led up to the banking meltdown in 2008:- “It may be that the Big Four carried out their duties properly in the strictly legal sense, but we have to conclude that, in the wider sense, they did not do so.” PwC were particularly singled out for not drawing attention to the risks of the Northern Rock business model.

In 2012, the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) of the UK fined PwC a record £1.4m for “very serious” misconduct  over its audit of JP Morgan Securities. At the time it was the heaviest fine ever given to a professional accountancy firm in the UK. Some comments on the above article:- “Auditors are so conflicted in their relationship with clients it is a joke.”, “Add at least one zero to the fine and it might start to be meaningful.”, “The elites are just letting themselves off… Theft!!”.

Corrupt and wrong, too big, too greedy. And, as revealed in The Great Tax Robbery: How Britain Became a Tax Haven For Fat Cats and Big Business by former tax-inspector Richard Brooks, unlikely to change. When the government (and opposition) considers any change in financial law, it consults PwC as part of the process.

Current questioning of PwC integrity in recent over-estimation of Tesco profits by £250 million 

Or rather a lot in PwC's case

Or rather a lot in PwC’s case

Right now, the integrity of PwC is once again being questioned in an ongoing investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority. “PwC has been Tesco’s auditor for over 30 years. For that service, Tesco paid PwC £10.4m in the last financial year – plus another £3.6m for other consultancy work. Of the 10 directors on the supermarket’s board… two are ex-PwC… Mark Armour, a non-executive director, and Ken Hanna, chair of the company’s own audit committee.”

Sanctuary Group – an exempt registered charity rip-off and everything that is wrong with greedy and hypocritical corporate Britain today

Craig Moule, Finance Director

Sanctuary Group is very fond of telling the world how successful it is, particularly financially. “The 95,000-home landlord has reported one of the highest levels of gearing – borrowing in relation to assets held – in the sector…  ‘in line’ with the landlord’s business plan and treasury policy. The landlord reported a surplus of £42.6m, down from £54.5m, from a turnover of £592.3m and built 1,481 new homes during the year.” (Inside Housing 1.10.14) There had been earlier reports of a £72 million surplus last year but this apparently included assets from the takeover of Cosmopolitan, which I believe have since been discounted. No doubt PwC are doing their job, legitimately or otherwise. (KPMG, another government-linked massive firm, have since become Sanctuary Group’s auditors… Tim, 2017)

SanctuaryGroup

 

The privitization of housing stock has happened quietly over the last thirty years and more. Large housing associations have become greedy money-making machines. All Sanctuary care about is money and building their property empire, make no mistake. They are right in there at the heart of the government, the financial establishment and even the Church of England. Local councils also seem to be quick to support Sanctuary, rather than those suffering as a result of their countless bad practices – in fact Sanctuary seem to be good at buying off all sorts of people. The publicity machine is often grotesquely dishonest. Sanctuary are a classic example of the amoral screw-you capitalism that has gradually taken hold over the last 10-15 years and longer. They do some good, offer some good services and help some people and communities – one would hope so with the millions of pounds they have and 11,000 staff. However, if more Sanctuary tenants were middle-class – with money to defend themselves (few Sanctuary tenants now qualify for legal aid) and/or with better education and/or more self-respect – Sanctuary would not last 5 minutes. There would be an outrage, as there should be right now.

PoundSignUKTo anyone out there who has been genuinely helped by Sanctuary – great stuff, you might be wondering what the fuss is about. All things considered though, this shambolic, scandalous, useless, uncaring, arrogant, rip-off corporate monstrosity of a company should be shut down immediately.

Fully supported by the government, Sanctuary’s tax-free, registered charity, “business model” stinks. Sanctuary are the lowest of the very low for making massive profits while continuing to abuse and exploit many poor and vulnerable people in our society. 

(Chief Executive David Bennett was made a CBE for services to social housing in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list – an absolute disgrace.)

Housing association complaints – no regulation of service quality!

This updated blog post on housing association complaints is for anyone who has had serious problems with housing association complaints, Sanctuary Housing and Sanctuary Group in particular. For more on serious complaints see 2019 blog Deaths, incompetence and lies – the multimillion pound housing associations destroying lives also 2016 post A nationwide scandal – Sanctuary Housing and the original 2009 post Are Sanctuary Housing Above The Law? and others here.

If you have had serious problems with Sanctuary Housing or Sanctuary Group, please join the independent facebook group Sanctuary Housing Independent Complaints Group – Countrywide, which has over 800 members (December 2016). It offers support and advice from others who have suffered at the hands of Sanctuary Housing – the incompetence, the frequent breaking of tenancy agreements, the threats, the lies and all the rest of it.

The information below is also relevant for complaints about other sometimes shockingly bad, usually very large, housing associations. Hyde Housing, Affinity Sutton, Metropolitan and Orbit are some that I have heard mentioned.

SanctuaryHousingIf you are reading this, you may already be familiar with the official procedure for housing association complaints, including Sanctuary’s. This consists of firstly trying to sort things out at a local level, then going through the housing association three-stage complaints procedure, then contacting a designated person (MP or local councillor). If all else fails, contact the housing ombudsman. In reality, for a large number of reasons, this process is not working for a very large number of people. The endless bureaucracy can be a complete nightmare and housing associations will often use every trick in the book to avoid taking responsibility for their poor services and sometimes diabolical treatment of vulnerable people.

An attempt to expose Sanctuary Group’s bad practices

poundsignukTowards the end of 2013 (prompted by the news that registered charity Sanctuary had made a “surplus” of £72 million – this was apparently later revised down to £54.5 million, once the acquisition of Cosmopolitan had been taken out of the equation) – I sent out a very carefully-worded physical letter to 34 contacts: Inside Housing, Private Eye, The Guardian, Homes and Communities Agency, 38 Degrees, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Taxpayers Alliance, Shelter, the Public Accounts Committee, two Commons Select Committees, the then Housing Minister Mark Prisk and 11 other MPs. I focused on the following:-

poundsigns1. Illegal and morally questionable practices.
2. Repairs being done very badly, or not at all.
3. Many properties in very bad condition, sometimes unfit for human habitation.
4. Complaints going missing and being ignored.
5. Blatant lying and dishonest manipulation of language in order to deflect complaints.
6. Bullying, harassment and bad treatment of tenants, including the elderly and disabled.
7. Inadequate soundproofing.
8. Bad communication and a lack of consultation with communities.
9. The lowering of service standards as a result of Sanctuary takeovers.
10. Bullying and mismanagement of Sanctuary’s own staff.

Under each category I selected a few quotes from the 500+ comments on the blog Are Sanctuary Housing above the law?. I tried to include (nearly) everyone who had contributed up to that point. Although yet again there was no media interest, I had two lengthy replies, one from the Homes and Communities Agency and one from Margaret Hodge of the government’s influential Public Accounts Committee.

Replies from the Homes And Communities Agency (the social housing regulator, mainly concerned with financial regulation) 

Email: mail@homesandcommunities.co.uk  Website: http://homesandcommunities.co.uk

Postal address: Referrals and Regulatory Enquiries Team, Homes and Communities Agency, 1st Floor, Lateral, 8 City Walk, Leeds LS11 9AT

HACagencyInitially, the following reply gave me some hope:- “Thank you for your letter, sent to the Homes And Communities Agency and other organisations, containing a number of allegations about Sanctuary Housing Association… (We have) now considered the information you have provided and would like to invite you or others who have experienced difficulties to provide us with further information.” Carole Harrison, Referrals and Regulatory Enquiries Team, Homes and Communities Agency, 28.10.13

Several Sanctuary tenants sent extensive details of very serious complaints soon after – they were completely dismissed. On behalf of many tenants and others who have been badly treated by Sanctuary, I decided to have another go myself. In early 2015 I sent a carefully presented 80+ page document with extensive evidence (text, photos and newspaper articles which taken together represented 150+ Sanctuary tenants around the country) of illegal and immoral practices to a number of “authorities” and media. This included quotes from tenant-run Sanctuary facebook groups and detailed evidence of a fraud against the Scottish Housing Regulator by Sanctuary in Scotland.

The second reply from the Homes and Communities Agency was arrogant and completely dismissive. Why did they bother asking for further information if they obviously had no interest whatsoever?

Reply from Margaret Hodge MP and the Public Accounts Committee

Email: pubaccom@parliament.uk  Website: http://www.parliament.uk/pac

Postal address: Committee of Public Accounts, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA

Margaret Hodge

Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the P.A.C. in 2013

“My committee retains a strong interest in how the system of social housing provision as a whole is operating and I am grateful for the information you have provided… thank you for drawing these matters to my attention.” Margaret Hodge then went on to say that “the Homes and Communities Agency does not actively monitor social housing provider performance against, or compliance with, the consumer standards, responsibility for which rests with the Boards of social housing providers” Margaret Hodge, Public Accounts Committee, 6.12.13

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but this is confirmation by the government that following on from the abolition of housing inspectors at the Audit Commission…

THERE IS NOW NO GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF SOCIAL HOUSING FOR THE QUALITY OF SERVICES PROVIDED TO TENANTS.

A selection of June 2016 tenant posts from the 700-strong Sanctuary Housing Independent Complaints Group on facebook

Truth“They are useless! Our house flooded today and none of them wanted to come help!”, “We get a newsletter and it seems to be filled with happy, content tenants. Not sure where they get these people from but it’s certainly not in any Sanctuary house I’ve ever known”, “I am appalled with sanctuary housing! If anyone is offered a house through them avoid at all costs!!…this is beyond a joke and i will make sure everyone is aware of how sanctuary actually treat their tenants!”, “So, adaptations were requested in February for my disabled three year old. They were signed off by sanctuary on March 28th but…. nothing. I’ve been calling for 10 weeks and each time I’m told they will send an urgent email to the housing officer but still nothing. My little girl can’t walk, they knew she was having surgery in March and would be in a wheelchair”, “I feel like I’ve been backed up against a brick wall, the bullying tactics sanctuary use”, “Today I heard that Sanctuary have taken over Housing 21. Why are they still taking more on when they can’t get the stock they have in decent shape?”

The relentless Sanctuary corporate PR machine paints a different picture

OhReallyFrom a June 2016 press release:- “Over 85,000 residents across England and Scotland have benefited from community investment and support from Sanctuary Group during the last financial year. The leading housing and care provider invested £1.55 million in community initiatives during 2015/ 16 to make a difference in communities nationwide. Under five strategic themes – employment, education, skills and training; health and well-being; community safety and infrastructure; environment and financial inclusion – Sanctuary’s investment has helped support more than 600 community initiatives with over 300 community groups…. Another key commitment for the Group is helping to reduce social isolation, particularly amongst vulnerable residents. 830 people have benefited through Sanctuary’s funding in the last year to help address loneliness and create more opportunities for people to feel more connected to their community.”

Why I am still writing blogs about Sanctuary Housing

SanctuaryHousingEven though I wasn’t a Sanctuary tenant myself, I had my life temporarily destroyed by Sanctuary’s useless, uncaring, arrogant and disgusting mismanagement back in 2007 and 2008. Intitially, it was all about an anti-social neighbour and non-existent soundproofing but the main problem soon became the utterly diabolical management of Sanctuary Housing. A total of eight employees (including Chief Executive David Bennett) and other contractors showed themselves up with various SanctuaaryGroupcombinations of incompetence, arrogance, blatant lying, blatant bullying and plain negligence. They lied and lied to our MP and the police, both of whom quickly saw through them. In the meantime, I lost my relationship, my home and almost my sanity. Months later, after threats from Sanctuary managers, I started a blog called Are Sanctuary Housing above the law?  As can be seen there, this company does an awful lot of harm to an awful lot of people. I have worked in supported housing, care homes and homeless hostels myself, so I have a pretty good idea of the difficulties that Sanctuary often have to deal with. They do SOME great work with people and communities, SOME of their properties are as good as the glossy Sanctuary PR pics. But they are also failing large numbers of people in countless ways and regularly trying to cover it up. In my opinion they have simply got too big TimBurnessand too greedy to function properly. Eight years on and with the help of the government and support from the Church of England, they are still expanding their property empire of 95,000 homes whilst badly letting many, many tenants and others down. No-one is stopping Sanctuary, a rogue housing association if ever there was one, or organizations like them.

(Sanctuary’s Chief Executive David Bennett was made a CBE for services to social housing in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list – an absolute disgrace.)

The Sanctuary Group Board

Jonathan Lander

Jonathan Lander

John Doughty

John Doughty

Dr Gareth Tuckwell

Dr Gareth Tuckwell

Nick Baldwin, Group Chair

Nick Baldwin, Group Chair

Robert McComb

Robert McComb

Elwyn Roberts

Elwyn Roberts

On the Sanctuary Housing Group website, you will find pictures and brief biographies of Directors and Executives with lots of letters after their name. Naturally, I would not wish to show any of the Sanctuary Board members (David Bennett, Craig Moule, Ian McDermott, John Doughty, Jonathan Lander, Liz Meek, Nick Baldwin – oooh, LOTS of letters after his name, that must be why he’s the Group Chair, Robert McComb, Thelma Stober, Elwyn Roberts, Dr. Gareth Tuckwell – even more!) or other Executives and Operatons Directors (Amanda Gonsalves, Peter Martin, Nathan Warren, Sophie Atkinson, Steve Wood, Simon Clark, Gordon Laurie, Dennis Evans, Chris Munday – wait a minute, according to the website Chris hasn’t got any letters after his name! OMG!) any disrespect. I myself am Tim Burness L.A.Y.N.A.M. – Letters After Your Name Are Meaningless.

David Bennett, Chief Executive

David Bennett, Chief Executive

Craig Moule

Craig Moule

Such impressive credentials! The author of a book called “A Question of Healing” who has been involved with the hospice movement, an Accredited Mediator, a woman who has worked to improve services for people with schizophrenia and for ex-offenders. Ah… oh dear, here comes the stench of Big Money – two ex-partners of PwC the massively powerful firm of accountants, an investment banker, an ex-Chief Executive of Powergen.

An investment banker? The head of an energy company? Can you hear those Corporate Rip-Off alarm bells ringing!?

Please see previous blog Are Sanctuary Housing Above The Law? and its 500+ comments for how bad this company can be.

I would absolutely refute any suggestion that I might have the view that, whether they realize it or not, these individuals are a money-grabbing, hypocritical bunch of fraudsters who front a totally corrupt and morally bankrupt organization. Any such suggestion that I might think this, or anything like it, made by anyone would leave me with no alternative but to invoke my Persistent, Cereal and Herbacious Complainants Procedure against them.

Yes, Sanctuary Housing Association does some good work – but nationwide neglect and abuse of tenants, including the elderly and vulnerable is no joke. An exempt rip-off registered charity that lies, cheats and bullies people is no joke. Bad services, incompetent contractors and substandard properties left to rot for years is no joke.

£72 million surplus last year. Shame on you, Sanctuary Group Board.

(The above figure was apparently later revised down to £54.5 million – they make around £40-50 million every year. Unbelievably, Chief Executive David Bennett was awarded a CBE for services to social housing in 2015.)

Liz Meek

Liz Meek

Thelma Stober

Thelma Stober

Ian McDermott

Ian McDermott

Are Sanctuary Housing above the law?

Shadow Justice Minister, Andy Slaughter MP

Also see 2019 blog Deaths, incompetence and lies – the multimillion pound housing associations destroying lives 2016 blog A nationwide scandal – Sanctuary Housing and 2016 updated Housing association complaints – no regulation of service quality! and others here.

If you have had serious problems with Sanctuary Housing or Sanctuary Group, please join the independent facebook group Sanctuary Housing Independent Complaints Group – Countrywide, which has over 800 members (December 2016). It offers support and advice from others who have suffered at the hands of Sanctuary Housing – the incompetence, the frequent breaking of tenancy agreements, the threats, the lies and all the rest of it.

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 being an “exempt”  registered charity means that the Charity Commission has no monitoring role whatsoever – it’s a tax break. Not only do they not pay tax, Sanctuary appear to be largely unaccountable to anyone at all. The Audit Commission no longer has housing inspectors. The Homes And Communities Agency, the new social housing regulator since 2012, deals mainly with financial regulation.

Francis Bennion

Prince Philip

Sanctuary Housing Association was originally founded as The World Of Property Housing Trust by influential barrister Francis Bennion (according to his website, Mr. Bennion was still vice-president of Sanctuary until his death in 2015) in 1968-69. 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:-

Simon Clark, Group Director – Housing. E-mail: simon.clark@sanctuary-housing.co.uk Direct Dial: 01905 334064 Extension: 34064 Mobile: 07894 599107

Group Director for Housing and Communities, Simon Clark

Direct dial: 01905 334064 Extension: 34064 Mobile: 07894 599107 Email: simon.clark@sanctuary-housing.co.uk 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

claire.griffiths@sanctuary-housing.co.uk

Director of Sanctuary Home Care & Extra Care, Donna Culley

Direct dial: 01905 334091 Mobile: 07900 160602
Donna.Culley@sanctuary-housing.co.uk

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.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog/gotastory/
E-mail:
watchdog@bbc.co.uk

BBC PANORAMA
Panorama, Zone D, 4th Floor, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London, UK, W1A 1AA
E-mail: panorama.reply@bbc.co.uk

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?

Original post:-

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.

David Bennett, Sanctuary Chief Executive, now a CBE

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.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2003/sep/24/

(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:-

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1215947/

£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.)

Former Group Chair, Nick Baldwin

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.

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