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‘I think the housing sector is too quiet’ – an interview with Baroness Lawrence

Baroness Lawrence speaks out about the lack of diversity in housing association executive teams and board rooms; a need for councils to be better resourced to tackle bad landlords and build more homes themselves; and her recent report looking at the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on BAME communities.

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Baroness Lawrence spoke to Inside Housing editor Martin Hilditch about how the sector can do more to tackle various issues
Baroness Lawrence spoke to Inside Housing editor Martin Hilditch about how the sector can do more to tackle various issues
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“I think the housing sector is too quiet” – an interview with Baroness Lawrence about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BAME people #UKhousing

“I would like to see more people step up to the plate and challenge to make sure that we are addressing issues around housing, poverty, child poverty, hunger,” Baroness Lawrence’s challenge for #UKhousing in an interview with @insidehousing

“I'm not sure they really care,” Baroness Lawrence on the need for social landlords to publish data on ethnicity pay gaps in their organisations and what might be holding them back #UKhousing

Baroness Lawrence has previously said that she thinks social landlords are too quiet in challenging the housing conditions that have led to COVID-19 having a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

She also said the sector has a problem when it comes to a glass ceiling for BAME people looking to progress their careers in the sector.

Baroness Lawrence speaks to Inside Housing for the first in a series of head-to-head video interviews – known as IH Live – that the publication will be running with influential figures and interesting thinkers both within the sector or have insight to share about the sector.

Watch the video here:

Baroness Lawrence speaks about her recent review, An Avoidable Crisis, into what the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities should mean for social landlords and policymakers. The review was commissioned by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer earlier this year.


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The report talks about the urgent need for more social housing as well as a call for reform of the benefit system.

Baroness Lawrence calls for other voices to speak up more strongly to push for change.

“I can’t be the only voice that is speaking,” she says. “There have to be others that speak up. I am just one person. I would like to see a lot more people step up to the plate and challenge a bit more to make sure that we are addressing the issue around housing, poverty, child poverty, hunger and all of those things that are happening at the moment.”

Baroness Lawrence, who was also a housing commissioner at Shelter, which last year published an influential report calling for a significant new national programme of housing built at social rent levels, says her contact with social landlords to date has led her to conclude that it could challenge the lack of action so far more powerfully.

“I think it is a sector that is too quiet,” she states.

Baroness Lawrence’s review also calls for it to become mandatory for firms with more than 250 staff to publish their ethnicity pay gaps, to mirror gender pay reporting – something that is not standard for social landlords (or more widely).

She questions whether landlords which are not currently publishing or collecting that data “really care” about tackling the problem. “I’m not sure they do,” she states in the interview.

Commenting on research by Inside Housing which revealed a lack of diversity at board and executive levels in the social housing sector, she says this indicated that “there is definitely a problem” for the sector.

The new IH Live section of the website – part of a raft of changes, including a redesigned website and new monthly magazine, that launched last week – will include a variety of video and audio content, such as head-to-head interviews, alongside our existing podcast and range of webinars and roundtables.

Baroness Lawrence was awarded an OBE for services to community relations in 2003 and was made a life peer in the House of Lords in 2013. She has won praise for her tireless dedication to the community, anti-racism and other causes close to her heart, and she was recently named the most powerful woman in the country by the BBC.

She continues to advocate and provide a voice for the voiceless with her continued commitment to tackling inequalities in societies globally. She supports many good causes and travel initiatives that provide opportunities to young people that were tragically denied to her son Stephen by his senseless murder in 1993.

Her efforts in seeking justice for Stephen’s murder led to an investigation into claims of police corruption and she says the changes in policing remain “only partly done” in her wish to see Britain become a fairer, just and tolerant society for all.

Following 22 years as the founding trustee and president of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Baroness Lawrence stepped down to establish the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation, where she is continuing to provide “a legacy of hope” for young people, in particular boys of colour and disadvantaged communities with educational opportunities, community cohesion and career advancement.

She spoke with Inside Housing on Thursday 3 December as part of an IH Live tie-in with the HOMES UK virtual event. Watch the full interview to find out more about her review, the Shelter Commission and what she thinks both of them should mean for social landlords.

Watch all of our IH Live interviews

Watch all of our IH Live interviews

In conversation with Doreen Lawrence

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