Case Study: Customer Profiling and Equality Impact Assessments in Monmouthshire Housing
Chris York, Policy and New Initiatives Officer from Monmouthshire Housing reflects on the association’s work on EIA’s and using customer data to inform real change.
Since starting at Monmouthshire Housing Association (MHA), a few years ago, I’ve been responsible for leading improvements to the way we carry out equality impact assessments (EIAs).
In 2014 we carried out two large-scale equality impact assessments: anti-social behaviour and tenancy management. In 2015 we also completed an EIA on our rent arrears management service. At the moment, we are carrying out an EIA as part of a service review on our tenant involvement services.
In 2014 we also co-wrote our own EIA procedure with support from Tai Pawb, tailoring our approach to suit MHA and reflect our customer profile. The procedure incorporates practical and straight-forward advice for all staff to carry out assessments.
Subsequently, we have received good feedback from both Tai Pawb and the Welsh Government on our approach to EIAs.
Some things to think about, which may strike a chord
- We see EIAs as a structured way to review equality data, helping MHA make better decisions. The aim is to produce better outcomes for customers and also help us ensure our actions do not unintentionally discriminate or disadvantage particular groups of people. The bottom line is we’re not doing EIAs just for the sake of it! They are related to our mission statement, our vision and our aims and values. They also impact directly on our policy development. We have got to the stage where they give us a lot of useful insight and they are now an integral part of service reviews.
- Generally, to help us decide when to carry out an EIA, we give priority to service areas that are key to the delivery of our aims and values. Also, where services might be removed or substantially altered and this could have a disproportionate and unjustifiable adverse impact on some staff, services users and/or the communities in which we work.
One of our main strengths is data collection
MHA has a rolling programme of collecting household information. We can use our tenant profiling information such age, gender, ethnicity etc and link that to an area that’s being reviewed such as rent arrears recovery. Having the data and software to accomplish that is very important to us.
It is easy for us to transfer this information to a spreadsheet and correlate all our tenants and occupants with equality data, with the data placed in separate rows. So using the rent EIA as an example, we placed protected characteristic data e.g. age, gender, ethnicity in rows and compared it with rent information in multiple columns e.g. the percentage in arrears, average arrears, notice served, court order during the tenancy and so on and so forth. This straight-forward approach was very effective in helping us understand both the service and its impact on specific types of household.
We’ve also used other data to help us enhance assessments. Other sources include: complaint information and satisfaction surveys (which we can also link to equality data); information from tenant engagement groups; focus groups; feedback from staff delivering a service; Office of National Statistics data; Census 2011 data; published research; police data and data from representative organisations. For us, any data that can be related to service users is key information to use in an EIA.
Providing insight that colleagues can use
We know from the rent arrears review that tenants with certain characteristics can be more susceptible to arrears, namely: expectant mothers, younger tenants, those with mental health issues, alcohol and substance misuse issues or individuals whose first language is not English. This insight gives us areas to focus on moving forward.
Evaluating the Impact
That is the next area for us to improve on. The plan is to carry out further EIAs in a rolling programme, to assess the impact of the changes that we have made.
- I think it is helpful to have at least one person in an organisation that develops expertise in carrying out EIAs.
- That person needs to have received relevant training, before they begin their first assessment.
- Having up to date good quality data to start an EIA is a must.
- Ensure the right data is being collected and is retained in an accessible way.
- Talking to service users is a must, as that gives a broader understanding of a service.
- The person leading the assessment should have a plan and know exactly how they are going to start and progress the EIA, before they begin. Then adapt as needed.
- I have found it effective to use the data to identify possible issues and then consult service users on those areas.
- Tap into strengths that other team members have and work together. This could mean getting help from staff that work in continuous improvement or someone who oversees a database containing information on service users. Keeping meetings short and explaining exactly what you need and when you need it helps to secure buy-in.
- Get others to help with consultation too; sharing the workload, as much as possible, will make the EIA a lot more manageable for everyone.
- Utilise external relationships and tenant engagement groups that are already in place.
- Some of the best information I have received has come from telephoning tenants (with a particular characteristic) randomly and asking for help i.e.…we’re looking to improve…..we collect data to help us do that…..the information we’ve put together suggests this….that’s why I’m ringing you….would you feel comfortable talking to me about that? This can be highly effective. Check an individual’s account notes and history before making the call.
- Encourage staff, service users and any partners to come up with actions to take forward, to support the EIA.
- Advertise why particular data is collected and what it is used for to customers.
- We have used EIAs in regulatory assessment feedback to the Welsh Government, which should also help to secure buy in.
- Provide feedback to staff/tenants/groups involved in or affected by the EIA, using the most appropriate method.
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