Human Interest stories only shaft the vulnerable even more!

When did we become inured to already vulnerable people being shafted some more? Or why we need to abandon human interest stories as they do not work!

Today I read on the ever informative Nearly Legal blog that reports:

the LGO released a special report on homelessness complaints (with 70% of complaints investigated upheld).

I am no fan of the toothless Local Government Ombudsman and its tortuous lengthy processes yet 70% of all complaints are upheld – seventy per cent – and my normal starting point of numbers as facts kicked in. We rightly condemn the DWP for seeing 65% of work capability assessment decision being overturned when challenged so where is the condemnation for local government decisions I thought? The figures say local councils are worse than the DWP!


My Twitter profile above says “Housing consultant hates ANY vulnerable people being shafted by ANY incompetent govt or by landlords private or social” which I do and always will.

It is only since 2012 when the so-called “welfare reforms” of this Tory government has received public condemnation for attacking and targeting vulnerable tenants and benefit claimants aka scroungers, yet for decades before that local councils have been shafting vulnerable homeless families in homelessness and all other vulnerable persons in administering the Supporting People programme.

I am not at all seeking to deflect blame from this Tory government for callous cut upon callous cut yet any reasoning that local government says of its admittedly severe funding cuts from central government is explanation but never excuse to shaft those who are vulnerable.

The Nearly Legal post goes on to highlight that many of these 70% of complaints upheld concern damage to the physical and mental state of children – as if the state of being homeless is not bad enough for children in the first place – yet we, the public have become accustomed if not inured to these horrors because we are fed human interest stories more outrageous by the day. These human interest stories are meant to make us all say enough is enough because of the human interest and there for the grace of God do I principle.

Yet human interest strories alone no longer work and we the public have become inured to them and a different approach is needed in order to effect the change that should come. If they don’t work for vulnerable children getting shafted by the establishment then they will never work for adults will they is a key point I am seeking to make.

Do we need to hammer home the PREVALENCE of them? The 65% of WCAs that are overturned and the 70% of homeless complaints that are upheld?

Yes we do and repeatedly as these human interest stories leave themselves open to the charge that they are one-offs or a rarity when the facts – those damn pesky facts – show them to be the norm and far from being isolated cases!

I am minded of the words of David Gauke the DWP Minister on the Marr show this weekend when he said on the rare occasions we get things wrong … blah blah blah. Yet 2 in every 3 work capability assessment decisions by his DWP being wrong is NOT rare at all and is the norm! And then of course we need to ask why are only 6% of all such WCA decisions challenged in the first place with this 2 in 3 chance of being overturned, which is largely due to the non availability of funding welfare benefit expert staff to take those appeals!

I am reliably informed that one 1 of the 8 CABs in Liverpool take such appeals and 7 in 8 do not and I can give many complex reasons for this which all come back to the cost of these very time-consuming and labour-intensive appeals. Yet the general public believe that the CAB provision to appeal is there and are NOT aware that this is not. They also believe that legal aid is available for such appeals yet it is largely not and the general public is totally unaware that the Tory government cuts off any challenge to their decisions by removing the financial ability of any such appeals being taken.

Cutting off the funding allows the Tories to say only 4% of WCA decisions are overturned – which is true – but ONLY true because funding is only found to appeal 6% of decisions! The vulnerable are shafted by the original heinous decision and then further by having no possible way to challenge those heinous decisions!

PREVALENCE also means asking why only 6% of WCA decisions get challenged when there is a 65% chance of winning an appeal … yet we focus on how bad the decision is and not on why has this not been changed? We focus on the problem with the human interest story and not on getting that problem solved!

I posted this weekend on the fact – and yet again it is a pesky fact – that the social tenant has been shafted by an alleged 1% rent reduction policy that has seen UK social tenants pay out £1.73 billion (yes BILLION!) more in rent since it was introduced. Just another example of the allegedly social landlords shafting vulnerable tenants and I emphasised how the media and the usual campaigning groups such as Shelter and JRF ONLY focus on the plight of the admittedly vulnerable private tenant.

Yet those pesky facts again reveal that under the Tories watch since 2010 the average rent rises as reflected in housing benefit received have increased 22% for social tenants and fallen in actual terms by 2.46% for the vulnerable private tenant. Just one more example of chronic oversight and of the London centric bias in all forms of social policy challenge in the UK media and nationally known campaigning groups.

With homelessness and poverty increasing by the day why does nobody ask about the chronic ineffectiveness of homeless, poverty and other vulnerable campaigning groups? Well other than receiving huge opprobrium from daring to mention this bloody obvious point as I have received regularly I mean? They ARE chronically ineffective as homelessness, rough sleeping, poverty and other vulnerability is increasing aren’t they? Such organisations are NOT doing their job but woe betide anyone who has the temerity to state the bloody obvious conclusion!

The downplaying of fact and prevalence along with the up-playing of human interest stories must have contributed to the more callous, more inured society in which we now reside. The human interest story telling strategy that has become ubiquitous these past 7 years has not worked and has failed as the pesky facts on the massive increases in vulnerable people of all forms being shafted proves.

How to challenge increasingly radical attacks on vulnerable people needs a radical overhaul as current approaches – which all tend to focus on the human interest strategy – have failed and spectacularly so with 134% increases in rough sleeping and 70% of homeless decision complaints being upheld and 65% of WCA decisions (when able to be challenged) are overturned.

3 thoughts on “Human Interest stories only shaft the vulnerable even more!

  1. Your point about the facts is spot on. Trouble is, people like human interest stories and organisations like human interest stories. People like the emotional buzz it gives them and organisations think these stories make their case better than facts! As you’ve pointed out, the problem is that human interest stories fail to show scale. If I was being really cynical I would say that some organisations like them precisely because they mask scale.


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