Prioritising Equality and Embracing Diversity: Melin Homes’ journey towards the Tai Pawb QED Award
Melin Homes Chief Executive, Paula Kennedy, tells us about her experience of piloting the QED award.
The Equalities Act 2010 brought together numerous pieces of legislation to make a coherent legal framework.
The Social Housing sector has always tried to be at the forefront of changing liberal ideals, of focusing on the individual because, as a sector, we are about people.
“The Act simplifies, strengthens and harmonises the current legislation to provide Britain with a new discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society”
– Equality and Human Rights Commission
The principles underpinning the Equalities Act; around promoting a fair and more equal society have a great synergy with the work we try to do as a sector, with the communities we serve and the individuals we house. To ensure we can best understand the needs of our residents we need to ensure our workforce isn’t just trained on the fundamentals of Equalities legislation but have the principles of Equality and Diversity normalised in our working culture.
One of the starting points for adopting any cultural change in an organisation is to outline why it is important and how it affects us all.
“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”
– Maya Angelou
There is an increasing amount of evidence that organisations that embrace and promote diversity are more productive and more innovative. We see an investment in Equality and Diversity as an investment in good business practice and future sustainability.
Here at Melin our working culture is important to us
We see it being critical to creating a positive and effective working environment for staff. We endeavor to create a vibrant workplace, we want staff to be happy here, to enjoy their jobs. We believe this is reflected in our approach to residents, our customer service and our productivity. There are many elements to creating a vibrant culture in an organisation and inclusivity and fairness is fundamental to our approach.
We began working with Tai Pawb on the QED Award back in the summer of 2016, but our journey began a year earlier when we challenged ourselves around our approach to Equality and Diversity. We worked with an independent company to carry out an assessment of our approach to Equality and Diversity which included a desktop exercise, focus groups and a targeted questionnaire. This exercise looked at a range of themes from access to services/property, staff training and development, attitudes, through to record keeping and knowledge of legislation.
The exercise highlighted pockets of good practice in the organisation especially around developing a positive culture and family friendly working practices, however it also evidenced some gaps in our policy and practice, and some areas of concern from staff around feeling excluded.
We began working with Tai Pawb on what was originally a regulatory framework approach to Equality and Diversity. Equality and Diversity emerged as a theme during the 2016 round of regulatory judgements and so it was felt that the development of a Housing Association framework for E&D would support the sector to improve practice in the area and ensure consistency.
A detailed framework was quickly developed by staff from Tai Pawb, their significant expertise in this area created a robust document. Melin staff worked with Tai Pawb to refine this original framework into a practical working document for Housing Associations. The framework focused on key areas for improvement for the sector and built upon good practice. The framework was circulated to the Welsh Government Regulatory Team who were supportive and were keen to see the principles adopted but through the principle of co-regulation not statutory mandating. The framework quickly evolved into the QED award and created a benchmark to which we could aim to achieve and perhaps improve upon.
Our practical experience of the process with Tai Pawb has been positive
We have developed a staff working group looking at key areas of improvement. Tai Pawb staff carried out a range of interviews with staff, board and residents to assess our current position with regards to the award. The staff at Tai Pawb were friendly, approachable and constructive throughout.
As this is very early days for the award there has been some learning for both parties around what works well. We have received a first draft of the QED report which has outlined some areas of good practice and a range of actions we need to improve upon. We have developed an entirely new Equality and Diversity Strategy and policy.
Most importantly, it has got the staff, board and residents talking about Equalities, challenging themselves and creating a positive approach to sometimes difficult conversations.
I think that it is critical our sector strives to lead the way in Equality and Diversity, to always be pushing for fairness and inclusivity for everyone. This QED award will go a long way to supporting organisations like Melin to improve their practices, to challenge behaviours and to ultimately ensure Equality and Diversity is prioritised as a key part of business culture and practice.