EVERYONE COUNTS STRATEGY

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1 EVERYONE COUNTS STRATEGY Introduction The aim of the Equality and Diversity Strategy is to ensure that Great Places Housing Group promotes equality, tackles discrimination, values diversity, and continues to provide the highest standards of customer care, making sure our services are tailored to meet the needs of our diverse customers. The strategy is to be used as a living document that can be adapted in line with the changing needs of residents and staff. It will act as a comprehensive guide, detailing the milestones already achieved on our journey of service improvement. Context Equality & Diversity Statement Great Places Housing Group is committed to ensuring and promoting diversity and equality of opportunity in housing, employment and provision of services for all people within its range of work. We recognise that everyone is different and we aim to ensure that our vision of providing exceptional services will meet the expectations and varied needs of our existing and future customers. We will ensure that everyone has fair and equitable access to our services regardless of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, nationality, cultural background, sexual orientation, class, appearance, responsibility for dependants, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, being HIV positive or having AIDS, or any other characteristics which may unfairly affect a person s opportunities in life. We will also work to promote good relations between people of different backgrounds. Legislation Great Places Housing Group will operate this strategy according to current equality legislation. We know that people continue to suffer discrimination for many reasons including those listed below. These nine characteristics feature in the Equality Act Age Pregnancy and maternity Disability Race Gender Religion and belief Gender reassignment Sexual orientation Marriage and civil partnerships However, we recognise that there are often other reasons why people are discriminated against. These include: Socio-economic circumstances Working part-time or working Nationality unsociable hours Class Having a criminal record Appearance Having responsibilities for 1

2 Being HIV positive or with Aids Being Homeless/no fixed abode dependents The relevant statutory requirements are contained in the Equality Act 2010 which in most cases consolidates and replaces previous legislation. The Group will also comply with all regulatory guidelines and good practice related to the social housing sector. We will also ensure that we comply with any new legislation or good practices which become a requirement for an organisation such as ours. What we do Great Places Housing Group is a forward-thinking, inclusive and exciting organisation which exists to improve the lives of the thousands of people residing in its portfolio of over 15,000 homes. One of the largest developing housing associations in the North of England, the Group works in some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, providing a tailored and specific service that recognises the differing needs of the diverse communities it serves. We believe that all people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and should be free to embrace their distinctive and individual identities. Customer diversity is undoubtedly one of our greatest strengths and we are proud to work with a varied cross section of residents from our wider communities, general needs housing, supported living accommodation, leaseholders, and shared ownership properties. What have we already done to improve equality and diversity? If we are to take full advantage of this strength, it is imperative that we continue to encourage participation from all our residents in the services we provide. Although we have worked hard to make our services accessible and inclusive, we know that people continue to suffer discrimination for many reasons. We will do our utmost to improve this. We have been working hard as an employer and provider of housing services to promote equality and opportunity for all. We recognise that a diverse workforce and board of management should reflect the diversity of our customer base and help us to continue to meet their differing needs. We are well on our way towards achieving this aim and actively encourage new ideas and alternative ways of working. What do we need to do? It is not just about our Group embracing diversity and equal opportunity for all. We are determined to work with partners, consultants, contractors and sub-contractors who are equally committed to the equality and diversity agenda and operate a similar code of conduct. The same goes for our supply chain. As a landlord, an employer, a purchaser and a local organisation, Great Places is also striving to become an example of best practice when it comes to equality and diversity. 2

3 Our Commitment We will work towards becoming an excellent organisation in relation to the Social Housing Equality Framework (SHEF) as outlined in Appendix A. The SHEF is a performance and improvement tool to help self-regulate diversity and equality practice. The SHEF will enable us to provide efficient and effective services to all of our customers and employees ( Everyone Counts ). To avoid duplication and extra work, the SHEF embodies the COUNT principles Count Once and Use Numerous Times. We will adopt the above framework across the following five areas of performance. 1) Customer engagement and satisfaction Customer engagement is key to the success of any organisation. Improving our levels of customer engagement through planning, reviewing, and the development of services and feedback, is top of our list. We will achieve this by: Building on our knowledge of what our customers want so that we deliver fantastic services which meet the needs of our diverse customer base Maintaining and improving our high levels of customer satisfaction which will be measured by various equality strands Offering a wide range of opportunities for everyone to get involved, including those who are under-represented and marginalised, which will ensure we gain the widest possible range of views Engaging with equality stakeholder groups. 2) Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment It is imperative that the leaders within in our organisation scrutinize our performance at all times, ensuring that proper governance arrangements are in place, and setting challenging targets where appropriate. We will achieve this by: Demonstrating our commitment to the principles of equality and diversity through the delivery of our services, our actions, and in the decisions we make at all levels Working with other partners such as local authorities to improve quality of life in areas experiencing deprivation Showing others how diverse communities can work closely together, creating vibrancy, energy and sustainability, taking a lead on financial inclusion, and develop training and employment opportunities Ensuring that equality, social inclusion and community cohesion is appropriately resourced (staff time and funds) by working in partnership with local authorities and other housing associations to access funding, and ensuring that new homes meet the needs of residents and communities Monitoring and reporting against our (including contractors) equality targets for the following areas: lettings, customer satisfaction, dealing effectively with racial harassment, governing body membership, staffing, and low cost home ownership sales Providing training and guidance for staff and contractors on equalities (to include vulnerable people, harassment, mental health, language and literacy issues, EIA, equality in recruitment and ensure understanding of all types of discrimination) 3

4 Where necessary developing properties to Lifetime Homes standards (which are adaptable to physical needs and can accommodate wheelchair users). Having an inclusive procurement policy which prioritises equality and diversity and encourages contractors to develop their own E&D policy Ensuring that contractors, consultants and suppliers adopt our equality commitments; including training (we have had contractors attending equality/cultural training and equality consultation events). 3) A progressive and diverse workforce We recognise that employing people who are able to deliver responsive and culturally-sensitive services, and who reflect the diversity of our customer base, will enhance our effectiveness and enable us to attract and retain a capable and talented workforce. We will achieve this by: Creating a working environment which recognises and respects others, and is free from unlawful discrimination or harassment Ensuring that the staff and teams that we employ are representative of the communities and areas within which they operate or serve Ensuring that staff are recruited and promoted on merit, and on the basis of fair job requirements with equality of opportunity for all Ensuring that all recruiting personnel are trained in understanding positive action as opposed to positive discrimination (especially in light of the Equality Act 2010) and are aware of the positive about disabled people initiative Monitoring against all diversity strands for recruitment (permanent and temporary) and targeting advertising to maximise applicants from underrepresented groups (i.e. local community radio stations, equality websites) where appropriate Carrying out an annual staff survey to gauge the effectiveness of employee satisfaction with training, support and staff management Ensuring all HR policies (including performance management, code of conduct, grievance, harassment, training and development and whistle-blowing policies) are promoted widely to staff Providing a flexible workplace which is family-friendly and has space for specific workplace requirements such as prayer (recognised by Investors in People). 4) Responsive services, access and customer care We know our services must be of the highest standard in order to fulfil the wants and needs of our diverse and changing customer base. All services should be respectful of the individual. We will achieve this by: Communicating our equalities commitment to staff, residents, contractors and Board regularly through our newsletter, website, contractor meetings, staff meetings, equalities reports Ensuring that the services we deliver are accessible by, and responsive to, the needs of all sections of the community and our customers Monitoring and reporting on complaints by various equality strands Ensuring all of our offices are DDA compliant and family-friendly Putting the needs and aspirations of our diverse customers at the heart of everything we do 4

5 Continuing to monitor, review, improve and invest in the aids and adaptations programme, to include were necessary in considering jointly funding an Occupational Therapist to reduce waiting times for residents. 5) Knowing your customers and equality mapping We recognise that some groups can experience discrimination when accessing our services. We will ensure that we have a good understanding of the wider communities in the areas in which we operate. We will achieve this by: Assessing vulnerability at the beginning of a tenancy so that appropriate support can be offered. Also, regularly promote the support services available, within and outside of the organisation Continuing to develop a profile of our customers and their diverse and changing needs, and use this information to provide services that are responsive to the individual needs and aspirations of our customers Ensuring all customer profile information is available for staff to refer to, including vulnerability, disability and challenging behaviour; and make sure this information is shared with contractors and other agencies, where relevant. Ensuring clear policies are in place (including harassment and bullying, domestic violence) to allow residents access to all of our services in a fair and nondiscriminatory way. Providing customers with clear and easily-understood information about our services, and offer information in alternative formats in line with our corporate translation guidelines Building on our proven success of supporting vulnerable people and enhancing their life opportunities. Aims & Objectives This strategy will be used to mainstream equality and diversity issues into the business planning process of the Group. The objectives and actions set out in the Everyone Counts strategy and action plan will provide the following outcomes: The way we deliver services will respond to the diversity needs of our customers. We will be able to demonstrate improvements in the services that we provide to our customers and their satisfaction with them Governance, leadership structures and our workforce will broadly mirror the diversity of the communities we work in We attract and retain a talented and competent diverse workforce Our workforce will understand our vision and aspirations for equality and diversity and their roles to achieving this Our outcomes and progress on equality and diversity will be communicated to customers, our workforce and our partners Our customers, workforce and partners will recognise Great Places as innovative and progressive in relation to our work on equality and diversity Great Places Housing Group will have a positive image Financial / Value for Money implications We will demonstrate efficiency and value for money by delivering services in the most appropriate way first time by intelligently using the information we hold about our customers and staff. 5

6 Performance monitoring Everyone linked to Great Places has a responsibility for the delivery of the Everyone Counts strategy. All members of staff should embrace this strategy and make it part of their working lives. Various E&D performance indicators are reported to Board and Directors via the Balanced Scorecard and monitored to enable the organisation to address and areas where customers or staff are not accessing services equally. Risk Understanding of changing customer needs & expectations & using this to develop our services to meet future demand is one of the medium risks in our corporate risk register. In order to mitigate against this risk, we are developing an Equality & Diversity Service Improvement Group to monitor performance and drive improvements. Conclusion In conclusion, everyone linked to Great Places has a responsibility for the delivery of the Everyone Counts strategy. All members of staff should embrace this strategy and make it part of their working lives. Strategy Approval Date: June 2011 Equality Impact Assessment Date: June 2011 Strategy Review Date: June 2014 Lead Team: Level of Authorisation Required: Quality & Performance Directors 6

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