Council's Xmas card to social housing tenants: don't spend your rent money on booze


“Don’t even consider depriving us of your meagre income so you can partake of the festive cheer like normal people. You’re dole scum and don’t deserve to enjoy anything in life so long as you’re under our roof.”

There aren’t enough words in the English language to elucidate just how much I hate this line of thought. Empathy, it seems, is a dying notion.


Almost half the tenants are behind on their rent? Sounds like a valid reminder to me. Using the excuse that you havre to participate in holiday festivities, so you can’t pay your rent, is ridiculous. You have responsibilities. Be an adult. Sometimes that means forgoing the fun things.


That’s not booze on the card; it’s seltzer water!

Looks like somebody is militantly jumping to conclusions…

Isn’t this the first chapter of A Christmas Carol?


It looks like the coin is supposed to be a Alka-seltzer tablet (remedy for food/beverage overindulgence) as opposed to an alcoholic beverage specifically.

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By my reading, it’s Alka-Seltzer (or the British equivalent), a common hangover restorative. In conjunction with the written text, the message seems pretty difficult to misinterpret (don’t get wasted over Christmas, loser).

No, wait! It’s 7up! And they’ve merely chilled some coins so as to keep their beverage cool without diluting…never mind.

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Except that nobody uses that excuse, outside of the minds of the people who write this sort of thing, who actually believe that poverty is basically caused by fecklessness.


I haven’t paid mine. They can wait. I imagine the signal to noise ratio here is too high for me to stand out, if I’m honest. Ours didn’t sent threatening letters, mind.

No, not all poor people who routinely fall behind on their rent are irresponsible or mismanage their money, but it’s probably a high enough percentage to remind people to keep their priorities and responsibilities straight. I wouldn’t mind offending a few people if it meant getting the rent I was owed.

I hate to tell you this but most people in council homes aren’t alcoholics who skip the rent so they can drink. I’d say most of the people that do skip December’s rent do so to buy their kids presents and have a normal christmas then pay the back rent over the next few months.

They are not taking food from people’s mouths by skipping the rent a month and so long as they do eventually pay the back rent, why should they have people treat them so condescendingly for trying to lead a normal life?

Let’s not forget that those paying rent are not scroungers, leaching off the state but workers who don’t make enough money to buy their own homes or afford to private rent so why should anyone – let alone the government – presume them all drinkers.


“Probably a high enough percentage,” eh? Citation needed.

I’m fortunate enough that I’ve never had to live in public housing. If I did, though, this crass, patronizing “greeting” would make me LESS likely to pay my rent, not more. My immediate response to it would be “up yours.”


If almost half of your tenants are behind on their rent, you already know who you have a problem with, so how could any ‘reminder’ sent to everybody, just because, be valid, much less sensible?

Unless the Council’s accounting mechanisms are unbelievably archaic and dysfunctional, shouldn’t it be a trivial exercise to categorize your tenants by rent-payment or nonpayment (and presumably more granular measures, like frequency of dips into nonpayment, or seasonal variations in payment/nonpayment) and correlate with addresses?

Mine would be to pay my rent with a big sack of thruppence and shillings and whatnot.

The intended effect would be magnified due to living in the United States.

I can’t speak to how much booze costs vs social housing rent in the UK but here in the US, the amount you’d have to buy in order for NYE booze to be reason you’re behind on your rent could provide fatal alcohol poisoning to an unbelievable number of people.

This really and truly has nothing to do with actually providing useful advice and everything to do with shaming and controlling the lower classes. The councils and people who buy into this line of thinking either have never been poor or misattribute the luck they had getting out of poverty as being skill and merit. Which allows them to look down on those who haven’t had the luck as being lazy and having crap willpower.


I’m sure there are some people out there who do spend money on alcohol rather than their rent and on a regular basis. I’m also sure an insulting Christmas greeting is not the best vehicle to hoist them out of the addiction cycle.


These people have ideas. They need to be confronted with their own ideas. People just accept the income gap and don’t mind that it’s widening- if they’re on the better side.
Poor people are not poor because they are lazy. If minimum wage was enough in every place to live, and if there were enough jobs, then yes, that might be plausible.

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YM “fizzy good make feel nice,” HTH.

Their tenants are ordinary working people like me. Some of them are poor. I’m poor.Things are, as you have surely noticed, pretty fucking shit for a lot of people. Who deserve more than these demeaning, condescending threats right now if ever they did.


Also, even if we gave the Council types the full benefit of the doubt, and assumed that they were operating under a system of benevolent paternalism, this card would still be pretty unimpressive. Has group condemnation for the actions of some group members(especially in environments where most members of the group have zero control over other members, especially the actually-scary ones) ever had good results? The Council knows, right down to address (possibly right down to individual, depending on how good the data-sharing between various arms of the UK social-services apparatus is) who is and isn’t paying rent. They know who alternates between getting behind and getting ahead, they know who never pays, they presumably know who engages with their ‘help’ people and who blows them off.

If they were benevolent paternalists, they would have ‘helpful reminders’ at least vaguely correctly tailored to each of the ‘children’ in their charge. Just lobbing an insult in the general direction of ‘them’ (the dutiful rent payers will be insulted, the people who just don’t give a damn will laugh, and the people who already struggle between payment and nonpayment probably already know what ‘help’ is or isn’t actually available) is pathetic even if you accept the notion that being a case in the social services system means that you are a less competent and functional person that the non-cases.

There are reasons why ‘paternalistic’ is not a positive description; but ‘paternalism’ (whether or not you regard it as fundamentally noxious) is actually a fairly demanding, skilled, exercise, with its own set of objectives, failures, tactics, and so on.

There is one argument to be had about whether ‘paternalism’ is an acceptable component of social services or not; but if an ‘intervention’ is both raging assholery from a non-paternalist perspective and ‘bad parenting’ from a paternalist perspective, what perspective can it be defended from?