1 Stronger communities, Better homes, Smarter business Equality and Diversity Strategy and Action Plan
2 Equality and Diversity Strategy and Plan Introduction 3 About Alliance Homes Group 4 Our Approach 5 Our Equality Statement 7 Equality Legislation 9 As a Service Provider 10 As an Employer 12 Training 13 Complaints and Concerns 13 Involving People in Developing our Equality Strategy 13 Appendix 1 Action Plan Appendix 2 Protected Characteristics 2
3 Introduction I am pleased to introduce the Alliance Homes Group Equality and Diversity Strategy and action plan in which we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to equality and diversity as described by the Equality Act Equality and diversity is a priority for the Alliance Homes Group and we see it as being central to the way we provide our services to both customers and staff. Our Strategy gives an overview of our equality and diversity approach and details more specific actions which will deliver this approach. We will continue to work with our customers, staff, Board, Directors, partners and the wider community, to identify areas of improvement and develop new ways of working to ensure that every customer receives quality services to suit their needs. During the life of our last equality strategy we were assessed over a 12 month period and were pleased to be awarded the Equality Standard Gold Award which recognized our embedded approach to equality and diversity. Clive Bodley Chief Executive 3
4 About Alliance Homes Group The Alliance Homes Group is a community-based social enterprise providing a range of services within the West of England. As a social enterprise we work with partners to build hope in local communities. Our core work consists of: Housing Support Services Repairs, Maintenance and energy efficiency Our Group vision is: Manages 6,500 homes in North Somerset and supports a range of community projects to create opportunities and improve lives. A particular focus at the moment is to get people back into employment by providing training and support opportunities. Is one of the largest providers of housing-related support services in North Somerset and offers a range of services aimed at helping people to find, settle or remain living in their homes. Is focused on providing excellent customer service and offers: A maintenance & repairs service Green initiatives to improve homes and reduce energy costs Cost sharing initiatives with other organisations To be the leading social enterprise in the West of England recognized for creating innovative and sustainable solutions that improve the quality of life of people within its operating area. We have also developed a set of values which underpin everything that we do: Respect Integrity Transformation Excellence listening and responding to individual needs; treating people fairly; promoting positive teamwork. being reliable, open, honest and transparent; doing what we say we will do; taking responsibility inspiring and empowering individuals and communities, applying innovative solutions aspiring to be the best in all we do; being a partner of choice; delivering outstanding quality and service. This document is our Equality and Diversity Strategy. It sets out how we will demonstrate our commitment to equality and diversity and to eliminating discrimination. It directly links to and supports our Group values. 4
5 Our Approach Why is equality and diversity important? Our customers and staff come from a range of different backgrounds. We believe that we will achieve better outcomes by working together and taking everyone s needs and experiences into account. We believe that everyone, from all backgrounds, should enjoy equal treatment in the provision of our housing and services. We must fulfil the Public Sector Equality Duty to ensure that we consider the needs of different individuals in our day to day work whether in shaping policies, delivering services, or in relation to our employees. The Equality Duty helps us to provide better services, by understanding how different people will be affected by our work so that policies and services are appropriate and accessible to all and meet different people s needs. When carrying out our work, we will have due regard to the need to: Eliminate unlawful discrimination Advance equality of opportunity Foster good relations between different communities What is equality and diversity? Equality is the recognition that everyone should be treated fairly, has individual needs, and has the right to have those needs respected. Equality is about fair treatment. It does not mean that everyone should be treated the same: some people will need more help than others to achieve the same outcome. Diversity is the recognition that everybody has, and is entitled to, their own experiences, perceptions, values and beliefs. Diversity is about respecting difference. 5
6 Our approach to equality and diversity This Alliance Homes Group Equality and Diversity Strategy explains our strategic objectives relating to equality and diversity and how we will deliver them. It also considers how we will meet our legal and social obligations across the diversity strands. The Alliance Homes Group is a community focused housing association regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), and as such we are required to act on the same basis as a public body with a statutory duty to develop equality action plans. In developing our Equality Strategy and action plan, we have addressed the nine protected characteristics of diversity as outlined by the Equality Act Equality and diversity are very closely related to each other. It is not possible to provide people full equality of opportunity without being aware of the diversity of their circumstances. This includes taking account of not only the differences that are visible, but also those that are invisible. We recognise that people may be disadvantaged because of a range of issues (which include protected characteristics see Appendix 2) including their age, gender or gender identity, race or colour, ethnic, national, cultural or social origin, disability, religion or belief, marital status or family circumstances, sexual orientation, social class, level of income, or housing circumstances. We also recognise that some people are disadvantaged for a combination of reasons. Equality and Diversity impacts on every aspect of the work each member of the organisation engages in. The Alliance Homes Group intends to achieve equality of opportunity by challenging direct and indirect discrimination in our areas of influence. It is integral to the access to and the type of services we provide and how we provide them. It drives the recruitment development and retention of staff, involved tenants and Board members. It influences our relationships with stakeholders, partners and the people we do business with and the communities we work in. Finally, we do not tolerate anti-social behaviour, including harassment, hate crime and domestic violence. As a response to these issues we have adopted a robust policy through which we will take action against perpetrators and support victims. 6
7 Our Equality Statement The Alliance Homes Group is committed to preventing discrimination and promoting equality for customers and staff regardless of age, disability, gender, gender identity, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. We want to break down barriers (real and perceived), value diversity, and provide excellent customer service. Our Equality Strategy The Alliance Homes Group s vision for our Equality Strategy is to ensure that in our service delivery no individual group or community is unfairly disadvantaged or discriminated against. This Strategy seeks to challenge continuing discrimination, promote equality and support the delivery of excellent services. The Alliance Homes Group recognises: That discrimination and inequalities have a significant negative effect on individuals, families and the communities they live in That the Alliance Homes Group has both regulatory and moral duties to develop and promote equality of opportunity That the Alliance Homes Group has a key role in supporting and maintaining the development of cohesive communities where people can prosper and enjoy living We celebrate the diversity found within the communities we serve and seek to provide an environment in which all our employees, customers, and partners can access equitable services, living and working without the fear of discrimination. More than this, we recognise that by taking people s diverse characteristics fully into account we gain maximum benefit from their uniqueness as individuals, improving our services and strengthening the community as a whole. It is by acknowledging people s different aspirations, expectations, responsibilities and needs that we can truly respect them, valuing difference and act accordingly. It is well recognised that inequalities faced by communities are frequently interdependent. We are therefore implementing a holistic approach to the development and delivery of services. 7
8 Our Equality Objective Our Equality Strategy is not intended to be viewed in isolation as it directly links to many of our strategies, policies; and procedures for example Grievance Procedure, Complaints Policy, Dignity at Work Policy, etc Any questions regarding this strategy and plan should be made to the Equality and Diversity Manager at the Alliance Homes Group. 8
9 Equality Legislation In October 2010 the Equality Act came into force. It brought together all the existing laws on equality and improved protection in order to try to prevent discrimination around the nine protected characteristics as listed below. The Act aims to simplify the law, to remove inconsistencies and to make it easier to understand and comply with. The Human Rights Act 1998 requires bodies performing public services to treat people in accordance with the human rights protected by this Act. While there is some debate about whether Housing Associations are public bodies, it is recognized across the sector that it is good practice to take Human Rights into account when designing services. Equality Duties The Act places on us certain equality duties (general and specific). These support good decision-making by ensuring we consider how different people will be affected by our activities, helping us to deliver policies and services which are efficient and effective, accessible to everyone, and which meet different people s needs. The Alliance Homes Group is subject to these duties in the functions, services and employment we provide, we must have due regard to: Eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimization and other conduct prohibited by the Act. Advancing equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Fostering good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. The duties cover the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership. People who are considering, undergoing, or have undergone gender reassignment are referred to in this guide as transgender. We consider that there are other aspects to equality. Some of our housing stock is within some of the most deprived areas in the Country and is also one of the most rural counties in the Country. Our tenants may experience multiple economic, rural and social deprivations. We therefore also consider these factors in relation to providing equal and diverse services for our customers. The duties go further and require us to publish information demonstrating our compliance with the Equality Duty, and to set ourselves specific, measurable, equality objectives in relation to: Its employees People affected by its policies and practices. This information is included in the Alliance Homes Equality and Diversity Annual Report. 9
10 As a Service Provider Equality Impact Assessments Equality Impact Assessments (EIA s) are conducted on every strategy and policy of the Alliance Homes Group. They explore the impacts that the strategy or policy might have in relation to each of the protected characteristics, highlighting any groups that might be negatively affected and providing an excellent opportunity for measures to be put in place to reduce the issues raised. Once the EIA has been completed it, and the policy is signed off by the relevant Committee or by the Board. The Board will not approve a policy or strategy unless an EIA has been completed. Any actions arising from the EIA are fed into CorVu, our business planning system, to be tracked through to delivery. Monitoring and Reporting Monitoring is important to allow us to see in greater detail how our services are operating and who is using them, and helps us identify how our policies and practices impact on different groups. We will continually review our monitoring systems including the way we collect information and use the information to inform our service delivery. We have collected Equality and Diversity data on over 87% of our tenants with a target of 90% by the end of We will use this data to ensure equality of opportunity in service provision across a range of services including lettings, repairs, arrears, major works, complaints and resident involvement. 10
11 We will also monitor equality and diversity issues relating to employment (see section on employment on page 12). The main monitoring mechanism for equality and diversity will be through the Equality and Diversity Champions Group and the Customer Service Committee. Specifically they will receive: A general equality and diversity update Equality impact assessment updates Report on progress against the Equality and Diversity action plan Performance against key diversity performance indicators In the main these will be self assessment. This entails carefully scrutinising what we are actually doing, making sure that we are providing services fairly and with respect. It is essential that we can provide supportive evidence for any claims which we make during this process. We will use monitoring information to benchmark our performance against other registered landlords. Leadership and Governance The Board is responsible for making sure this strategy is delivered and will monitor performance against it. We also have an Equality and Diversity Champions within the Executive Team and from across each business unit. Procurement The Alliance Homes Group is not just a provider of housing, but is also an employer and procurer of services. Our partners, stakeholders and customers need to be able to identify with us and feel that their views will be listened to. We will request information on potential contractors approach to equality and diversity as part of the tendering process and use this as part of the decision making process. We will ensure that all appropriate contracts include equality and diversity commitments. We will ensure that these commitments are monitored and reported on. 11
12 As an Employer A workplace embracing equality and diversity becomes an employer of choice in competitive markets, attracting and retaining the best talent. Diverse teams bring different talents and can recognize the diverse requirements of new customers and new markets. We have a duty, as an employer, to carry out monitoring of our workforce. Monitoring gives us a clearer picture of what is happening in our workforce. It allows us to see whether our equality policies are working and to measure their progress. We will continue to monitor diversity information relating to: Existing staff Applicants for jobs, training and promotion Training Grievances Disciplinary action Performance appraisals Leavers Staff training We provide training for all staff which aims to promote awareness and to provide the skills and knowledge to ensure that equalities become part of our day-to-day activities. The following indicates the type of training initiatives that are provided: Generic equality and diversity awareness training Themed, specific training including issues relating to legislation, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability etc. All new staff attend an introduction to Equality and Diversity as part of the Corporate Induction programme. EIA training Specific Equality and Diversity section within our Management Development Programme Cultural Bus Tours Regular equality and diversity updates via Connect, Team Meetings and Staff Briefings. 12
13 Board training We provide ongoing training for Board members which aims to promote awareness and to provide the skills and knowledge to ensure that equalities are an integral part of their role. Contractors and Partners We provide training and briefings for our contractors and partners front line staff to ensure an understanding of the Alliance Homes Group s expectations for service delivery. This includes briefings on how the Alliance Homes Group will keep contractors and partners informed about specific tenant equality issues or particular vulnerability or disability of tenants who are to have work done to their homes. Tenant Training All involved tenants will take part in Equality and Diversity Awareness training as part of their induction. A greater level of knowledge will be given to those tenants who are a part of the Equality Assured group to ensure that they can fulfill their role, for example in doing Equality Impact Assessments on other involved tenant groups. Complaints and Concerns The Alliance Homes Group is committed to equality and diversity and the delivery of this Equality Strategy and Action Plan. Any breach of this strategy by staff, service users or suppliers, will be dealt with under the relevant policy. This would include: the Complaints Policy, the Dignity at Work Policy the Discipline and Grievance Policy the Tenancy Agreement or the Contract for the Provision of the Service. Involving People in Developing our Strategy Whilst we have involved a number of individuals and representative groups in the development of this Strategy, we realise that we need to continue to build the partnerships that will enable us to maximise the effectiveness of future involvement. Our action plan reflects this highlighting the need for us to: Continue our work with customers and special interest groups, exploring alternative methods of engagement while supporting the work that is already being undertaken Involve people from a wide range of backgrounds and differing views in assessing our progress against our plans. 13
14 Accessibility We have recognised that individual members of the public and sections of the community may experience barriers in accessing information. In order to overcome these issues we adopted the following approaches: Information being provided in plain English or Easyread versions. Our leaflets, letters and other public information will make it clear how to obtain information in alternative formats We will continually assess and develop our website to ensure greater access for all e.g. Google translate We will use alternative mechanisms for communication including Language Line, Browsealoud and the provision of home visits. Operate an accessible working environment. Resources and Risk Getting equality and diversity wrong can be costly. Organisations need to have a competitive edge: equality and diversity can give this added value. The aims outlined in this strategy seek to mitigate the key risks below: 14
15 VERSION CONTROL AND APPROVAL DATES 15
16 Appendix 1 Equality Aims Strategic Objective - respect the diversity of the people and communities we work with. Action Plan
17 Appendix 1 continued...
18 Appendix 1 continued...
19 Appendix 2 What are the Protected Characteristics?