A protest was held in Westminster today after Hackney housing company Family Mosaic made three live-in support workers jobless and homeless.
The staff, who helped tenants with learning difficulties and other disabilities, were told they would be made redundant and lose their homes, which came with the jobs, soon after Christmas.
One of the staff members, who wishes to remain anonymous while the redundancy and eviction processes are finalised, said: “I’ve been in this role for four years, and I’ve built up good relationships with the people I helped. I assisted people with paying their bills, collecting benefits, and a lot of people with disabilities and mental health problems.
“They don’t all know we are going yet. I spoke to two of them yesterday, and they were so upset. I’ve worked with them for a long time in a very flexible, human way and helped them through difficult times. You become a part of their community, and a part of their lives.
“There’s a long history of live-in support workers in Hackney. It’s been going on for over 20 years.
“Now, I’ve got two months to find a new job and new home.
“People don’t realise that this is what social housing companies are like. I might as well have been working for Barclays bank.
“They say they have to get rid of us because of cuts from Hackney Council, but they have £53 million in the bank. Financially, they could have afforded to keep us on and make sure we weren’t made homeless. But they don’t care.”
Protesters gathered with placards and leaflets outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre this morning to confront Family Mosaic, which was exhibiting in the First Step Homes Show.
Protestor Glyn Robbins, a member of Unite union, which represents the three staff members, said: “It’s bad enough to be made redundant, but to lose your home too, that’s as bad as it can get.
“The workers were doing an important job supporting people with special needs within the community. There is no knowing to what extent the people they helped will be damaged by this.
“Family Mosaic is meant to be a social housing association. They are supposed to be benevolent.
“The chief executive, Brendan Sarsfield, is on £200,000 plus a year. He said to the workers, ‘we all have to make sacrifices.’ What sacrifices has he made? He’s completely detached from reality, and I cannot believe he has been so flippant. It is shocking and outrageous.”
A support worker who still works for Family Mosaic, and asked to remain anonymous, added: “To be made redundant and be evicted at the same time, it’s a double whammy.
“Social landlords should be about providing housing, not taking it away. They’re just passing on cuts to the workers – which they shouldn’t do. They’re supposed to be the people we look to to protect us.
“When I took a job with Family Mosaic, I believed it was committed to improving the housing situation. Actually, they’re more interested in widening the gap between rich and poor.”
“Mr Sarsfield has shown scant regard for some of the most vulnerable members of society.”
Heather Kennedy, from campaign group Digs UK, which campaigns on behalf of Hackney tenants, said: “Digs helped organise this protest because increasingly, we see social landlords acting more and more like private landlords.
“Here, they have put financial gain above their staffs’ needs and forgotten all about ethics.
“They said they have to make the staff redundant because of funding cuts, but we know they are sitting on money. It’s just a weak excuse.”
The soon-to-be homeless staff member Hackney Post spoke to said they suspect that their home may stay empty once they are evicted.
“On my estate, 15 to 20 per cent of houses are empty. I suspect my house will stay empty for eight years, until the next regeneration project.
“Even if we say we’ll pay normal rent, and say ‘OK’ to losing our jobs, they won’t let us stay in our homes. It’s terrible.
“How am I supposed to find somewhere affordable to live in Hackney within two months?”
Family Mosaic were unavailable for comment when contacted by Hackney Post.