Call 0800 612 9593
Skip to content
August may be the 'silly season' and March full of Lewis
Carroll's 'mad hares' but, for 2011 at least, April gets the award
for Season of Most Complete and Utter Lunacy. It
was game over for the other 11 months when Housing Minister Grant
Shapps said the £4bn social landlords spend on maintenance and
repairs they are responsible for would now be given direct to
tenants to do it themselves - DIY stylee!
It takes a couple of minutes to realise quite how mad an idea
this is so let's begin at the beginning. The government want to do
this to save money. Now that's a sensible aim. We all know
the nation's overdraft is a horror story and all sides agree
something has to be done. So far so good! Trouble is, as a money
saving idea this is only slightly less mad than the time Peter
Profligate went to 'Loans at 1,000,000% APR Repayable In 30 Days or
We Break Your Legs' to pay for a sofa on which he still had two
years 0% credit.
Let us count the ways this supposedly 'money saving' idea is
more stupid than a super-stupid square shaped wheel. But first, a
proclamation of political neutrality.
The Labour opposition is, if anything, madder than the
government on this issue. Its job is to oppose the
government, so this idea should be the best bit of political
dynamite since Liberal PM Lloyd George's monthly bill at 'Victorian
Prostitutes R Us' got sent to The Times News Desk, instead
of No 10 Downing Street in a plain brown envelope with the words
FOR THE PM'S EYES ONLY emblazoned on the front.
Shadow Housing Minister Alison Seabeck, the gov's neck is on the
block, so go chop it off tiger! Instead, she said this: "The scheme
needs to show that it isn't another poorly thought-through idea to
prevent any misuse of public funds." Talk about being savaged by a
Point one: misuse of public funds. By definition, those in
social housing are the poorest permanently homed people in the
country. I'm sure they're just as honest as everybody else, but
their situation puts temptations in front of them the better off
among us are lucky enough not to face. Imagine your kid's being
bullied at school because of his unfashionable shoes, or the money
really has just run out and there are empty plates on the
I'm also sure that there are a minority in social housing that
are as dishonest as, oh I don't know, let's say MP's and their
expense claims. They could get a Corgi registered plumber to mend
the gas boiler but how hard can it be? And that £120 would come in
handy if you're permanently skint so why not take a hammer to the
problem? Kaboom! - That's why not.
Which brings us neatly to the subject of Personal Injury claims
and not just those of the neighbours blown up by the gas explosion
either. Actual DIY enthusiasts - some 200,000 a year - have
accidents that need hospital treatment, so guess how many accidents
would happen when those in social housing, some of which won't know
one end of a claw hammer from an electric drill, take up DIY?
Loads, that's what. And all at a time when the NHS is trying cut
its growth in spending too.
Daytime TV is stuffed full of personal injury ads that go: "Have
you been involved in an accident?" (Oh yes guv!) "Was it someone
else's fault?" (Yes mate; they encouraged me to mend the window
myself!) "Then you should try for compensation with us, no
fee guaranteed." (You're right - let's sue the "ministers" and get
This isn't snobbery, just fact that social housing tenants will
have a high relative percentage of unemployed people and,
in-between looking for jobs, chances are they will watch some
daytime Freeview TV.
For those still unconvinced that any dangerous maintenance and
repairs will be attempted by social housing tenants without the
necessary skills, we present exhibit 1; The Royal Society for the
Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA's) Top 10 tools most likely to be
involved in an accident. In like a bullet - and just as dangerous -
at number 6 is the humble screwdriver! This little item sent 3,500
experienced DIYers to A&E in a 2006 survey.
Now let's take this problem to the unlikeliest 'N'th degree, say
cleaning windows. No-one can get hurt cleaning windows, surely not?
Surely yes! Here's a quote from a ROSPA press release: "Just
cleaning the windows can be dangerous - 30,000 people end up in
hospital each year after falling off ladders and step ladders."
Spookily enough, one of those personal injury compensation
adverts uses the very example of a man who fell off a ladder and
ended up with thousands of pounds worth of compensation.
All of the above leads us on to the next nightmare - who is
responsible when things go wrong? Is it the social tenant? Or the
government who encouraged him? Or maybe it's the Housing
Association, you know, the body that used to manage the
£4billion per year budget for social housing maintenance and
If all this sounds like a costly, Kafkaesque bureaucratic,
recipe for disaster, let's add another ingredient to the mix:
who pays and how much for putting things right when they go
The question of who pays we'll leave to the lawyers and lovers
of 20th century European writer Franz Kafka (more from him in a
mo...) whose work portrayed the horrors of modern bureaucray. How
much, well we can get an idea from last year's survey by
Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks. They put the bill for getting
professionals to put wrongs made by DIYers right at £235 million.
No, that's not a typing error, it was £235 million.
That cost is nearly 5% of a £4 billion budget the government
is hoping to cut. But the fun doesn't stop here. We
haven't considered the extra £100 or so pounds it will cost to put
DIY accident on the household contents insurance policies of the
least well off householders in the land.
We could go on but don't want to spoil your fun. As an
interesting parlour game, maybe you would like to invite over
friends and think up other ways in which this proposed cost cutting
measure is a stupid idea! If you've any friends that live in social
housing managed by Home Group or Hastoe Housing Association, put
them top of your list as they will be the guinea pigs in trial
schemes starting later this year.
And that snippet from author Franz Kafka, whose work portrayed
the bureaucratic horror of modern life? Apparently many credit him
with the invention of the modern hard hat now compulsory on
building sites; and as soon as this scheme gets up and running,
also worn everywhere for protection by author of this idea, Housing
Minister Grant Schapps. It's just a pity Kafka's no longer alive.
It would've been great to tell him: "See Franz, truth is stranger
than fiction every time."
© 2013 DU.IT Building & Handyman Services Phone: 0800 612 9593 - Email: