Reckon you’ve got a three-star rating in the bag? If your diversity record - showing that your services value people’s differences - isn’t up to scratch then think again. Audit Commission chief housing inspector Roy Irwin reveals.
All housing providers must understand and respond to diversity regardless of size, location and customer base.
Successful organisations have strong senior leaders committed to identifying and meeting changing community needs. They make all staff responsible for diversity, supporting them through comprehensive training.
The best landlords also collect community profiling data about all service users’ needs, including the hardest to reach. The Audit Commission looks to see how tenants are involved in using this information to shape services. Make profiling a day-to-day task.
Making sure residents are involved is a must. Inspectors look for a clear link between consultation and service improvements - organisations must have listened and acted. High-performing organisations check that consultation groups represent their community.
A strong diversity strategy linked to challenging but adequately resourced action plans is key. The best plans go beyond gender, race and disability and take account of age, religion and sexual orientation. They consider the requirements of future customers.
The proper use of equality impact assessments ensures all sections of the community can access high quality services. The most aware organisations have straightforward guides which prompt staff to apply diversity principles as a matter of course. Training is wide-ranging and well-attended.
Barking & Dagenham Council has produced a quick guide for staff on different cultures and faiths, Saffron Housing Trust in Norfolk offers a CD of its tenants’ handbook and Cambridge Council has developed a ‘count me in’ project to tackle under representation in black and minority ethnic communities.
Value for money and measurable outcomes are crucial. Providers that fund services for all and consider the ongoing management needs of new initiatives are the strongest. They achieve positive and sustainable outcomes which have real impact on the whole community.
Partnership working is important. Organisations that alone lack the capacity to tackle lesser understood responsibilities, such as the provision and management of Gypsy and Traveller sites or services to those with HIV/AIDS and ex-offenders, can work together to deliver a more effective response.
Organisations should be able to respond swiftly to domestic violence and hate crimes. Wirral Partnership Homes is part of a race hate task group and a risk assessment committee for domestic abuse. A service level agreement makes sure expertise, pooled intelligence and data gathering target hot spots.