We’ve Laid the Foundations

Written by Tai Pawb

Guest blog by Helen Bevan-Jones, Equality & Diversity Advisor – Bron Afon Community Housing

Helen Bevan-JonesIt’s hard to believe that we’re already planning for our next E&D Strategy.

It only seems like yesterday (11 May 2016 in fact!) we were launching our current one, with our key guest, John Harris, Former Paralympian gold medal winner, and partners from Tai Pawb, Stonewall, Connect Gwent, Torfaen Mind & Time to Change Wales, and members from our Equality & Diversity Reference Group.

So why did we develop a strategy?

6 people, 1 in a wheelchair, pose in an office with a document

Aspiring to be a confident, creative and caring organisation delivering excellent services, the need to develop a strategy was clear – whilst there was a key recommendation from Tai Pawb’s organisational needs assessment, we recognised that we needed to:

  • Move to a planned approach, rather than reacting to issues and diversity awareness events and build on our inclusion and support work.
  • Support our then Corporate Plan “Building thriving communities together”, tackling inequality with a view to improving the “quality of life and life chances of people living in Torfaen and neighbouring communities with a particular focus on those who face disadvantage”.
  • Support the Organisational Development Strategy and organisational value, that Bron Afon “Respects and values diversity and promotes equality of opportunity.

How did we engage with staff and tenants and identify priorities?

Involvement is at the heart of everything we do, so we met with our E&D Reference Group (made up of staff and tenants) to consider:

  • What you believe is in place at the moment?
  • What’s missing that needs to be in place (in relation to the commitment)?
  • Suggestions for what we might do
  • What “standards” might we want to aim for e.g. Mindful Employer

Prior to this, we’d taken advantage of our Tai Pawb membership and completed an organisational needs assessment. The findings together with considering our context and looking at where we need to be, led to the Equality and Diversity Reference developing a strategic aim (to be a more equal, fair, and socially inclusive organisation, committed to improving quality of life and life chances through integrated, preventative support) and three overarching strategic themes for equality and diversity:

  • Develop a more integrated and proactive approach
  • Achieve a culture change, where equality and diversity considerations underpin what we do
  • Ensure equality and diversity data is in place to help inform our improvement priorities


Can we see any positive impacts already?

Absolutely! We are most definitely on a journey to make a difference. Amanda Attfield, our Director of Organisational Development and Senior Management Team (SMT) champion, described our first year as laying the foundations of a house, with years 2 and 3 starting the build – brick by brick! Here’s a few examples of what’s been achieved to date:

Learning & Development
  • Introduction of an E&D Training Plan – included training for our Board, SMT and head of service, delivery of Toolbox Talks to our DLO, office based staff completing E&D training via e-learning.
  • Completed Welsh Language Skills audit – provided us with an insight into the Welsh language skills of our staff.
  • E&D is part of induction for Board members/new staff (with links to the Welsh language skills of new starters).
  • Built knowledge and skills of Equality and Diversity Reference Group.
Improved communications/awareness
  • Better use of digital media – use of twitter during awareness events and videos (Afon Retirement Forum & the Craft Club – dementia project and We can take your complaint)  and Identified employee champions for mental health, dementia and diversity champions (with representation across the business and a tenant member from our Reference Group).
  • Support awareness days e.g. Mental Well-being, Stonewall Season (cupcake sale), Shwmae Day, Dementia.

8 people sitting in a semi circle holding up signs saying "shwmae"
Shwmae Day

A table covered in cakes with people gathered around
Stonewall cupcake sale

  • Regular feature in Community News (newsletter to tenants and leaseholders) – raising awareness of the work of the Reference Group (July 2017 and May 2018)
  • Introduced and continuing to embed Equality Impact Assessments, linking this with our policy development process, with a ‘critical friend’ role for our Reference Group.
  • Introduced Mental Well-being Policy & Go2 champions.
  • Published gender pay gap reporting & actions identified to close gap.
  • Improved tenant profiling data collection (but need to get better!).


How do we monitor the Strategy?

Progress with the strategy is monitored by myself using the RAG system (a popular project management method of rating for issues/status reports, based on Red, Amber (yellow), and Green colours used in a traffic light rating system). This makes sure that actions are on track and highlights those that need further attention.

Progress reports are produced quarterly for SMT (presented to Staffing Committee prior to these meetings) and annually to our Board. On an ad-hoc basis, at the request of Staffing and Board, equality related reports will be presented on specific topics.


How have we made sure it is embedded into the organisation?

This hasn’t happened overnight. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Looking back – it’s great to see how far we’ve come in 3 years. We’ve just started consulting on our next strategy, so we’re about to do it all again – aiming to help make Bron Afon a place where everyone feels they can be themselves.

Critical to our journey has been the support of our Board (who all wanted to be champions), SMT, heads of service and not forgetting Amanda, our SMT Champion. Amanda has played a massive part in the journey and how we’ve embedded the strategy. It’s with great sadness that Amanda will not be part of our continuing journey, as she’s leaving Bron Afon at the end of July.

It seems only fitting to leave the last words to Amanda…

A massive thank you to everyone for getting us this far. With the foundations laid we will go from strength to strength, everyone doing their bit, making a positive difference day to day – that’s what creates the culture we want.