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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Equality, diversity and inclusion: four top tips

27/01/2016


The start of a new year presents a new opportunity for more housing professionals to challenge equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues and to drive transformative change in the sector, says Rohini Sharma Joshi, Trust Housing Association's EDI manager.

Image of paper people holding handsEDI discussions have been taking place in the housing sector for years but despite encouraging examples of good practice we're a long way from seeing it being embedded sector-wide. EDI is still regarded as an alien concept by some in housing or as 'yet another' thing to be added to an ever-growing 'to-do' list. Lack of understanding and a misplaced emphasis on resources and effort required to tackle EDI issues can result in a compartmentalised, box-ticking approach - and a missed opportunity. As a result, I've put together four top tips for housing professionals and organisations to consider.

EDI is about people and housing is a people business

We need to think about equality in a different way. Housing is fundamentally a people business and EDI is all about people - about treating them fairly and ensuring equality of opportunity, so these should be priorities for every organisation. We need to deliver a clear message that EDI affects us all as employees, employers, our customers and the communities we serve. That is why it must be embedded in all that we do.

Cultural change needs strong leadership

Embedding EDI in any organisation requires cultural change. It requires strong leadership and buy-in from the head of the organisation and senior management to take a meaningful step forward. There are several ways to amplify this message and to develop greater understanding of EDI issues, including the CIH’s own equality and diversity charter and the CIH '10 by 20' challenge to meet 10 EDI objectives by 2020.

Engage with other organisations to share best practice

There are often valuable opportunities to learn from a variety of organisations within the housing sector, who also share a passion and commitment to achieving leadership excellence in EDI.  At Trust Housing Association, we share our experience as part of our role as founding members of the National Centre for Diversity’s new 'national patrons' network.

Trust was the first housing association in Scotland to achieve 'investors in diversity' status and, more recently, 'leaders in diversity' accreditation. This has enabled us to participate in a wider dialogue around issues that all kinds of organisations face in creating a diverse and inclusive working environment.

Trust has its own award winning EDI programme and has developed and delivered a number of successful projects and initiatives over the years, some in partnership with other housing associations. These include 'happy to translate', an initiative which provides tools to communicate with people who face language barriers, and a Lottery-funded project which helps older people from ethnic minorities to access services.

There are practical things the housing sector can do to address these issues. We have developed a training programme and we regularly discuss EDI issues in team meetings and with tenants, making it clear that discriminatory behaviour is not acceptable. We also publish case studies in our newsletters that underline the message that everyone is welcome and entitled to a safe and happy life.

Make an action plan - not a wishlist

A systematic approach to EDI does not show instant results but instead lays the foundations for change and develops well-informed and motivated staff who help build an inclusive organisation. If there is one thing housing leaders must do to tackle EDI issues in 2016, it is to make sure that they are incorporated into a strategic action plan - not left languishing on a wishlist.

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