Social housing’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in 2022

Kate Henderson, 19 January 2022

A personal highlight of last year was the publication of our equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) report, which uses our members’ data to compile the first-ever national picture of EDI in England’s housing association workforce.  

We had a great response from our members when collecting the data for this report – over 170 organisations submitted data using our EDI toolkit, representing 71% of homes owned by housing associations in England. This diversity data for housing association workforce, staff, executives, and board members, has allowed us to see how representative our sector is when are compared to the population by stock location.

Housing associations have taken an important step in understanding more about diversity within the sector. The EDI report sets out the scale of the challenge before us and where we are currently, and helps us to better understand how to get to where we want to be. When we redo the data collection in 2023, our ambition is that EDI strategies and action plans will have made an impact, and data gaps will be reduced.

Where are the gaps?

There is a lack of representation throughout our workforces, especially in senior positions with data revealing the leadership of housing associations is not as diverse or reflective of the population by stock location.

The data collected also shows as a sector where our biggest information gaps are. We have little to no data on socioeconomic background, caring responsibilities or gender identity, and we have comparatively large cohorts of staff preferring not to disclose their religion or sexuality.

EDI New Year’s Resolutions

Now it’s time to focus on the year ahead as a sector and continue to drive change to become a truly diverse and inclusive sector. What better way to start than to set some New Year’s resolutions using the key recommendations from our EDI report?

Based on our findings, the recommendations outlined in our report are that housing associations in England should:

  • Engage: Talk to your workforce, boards, and stakeholders to scrutinise recruitment practices and understand attitudes and behaviours around EDI culture within your organisation, with the intention of better understanding inclusion in the workplace and improving data accuracy through more voluntary data sharing.
  • Measure: Use our EDI data tool to review representation among your staff, management, and leadership (including boards), setting targets for representation.
  • Act: Use data to inform EDI strategies and action plans, using targeted action to drive progress towards becoming truly equal, diverse, and inclusive across all levels and teams within your organisation. We’ve highlighted examples of good practice on our website.

These recommendations aim to help housing associations put relevant strategies in place and track progress moving forward.

Could your organisation set some EDI New Year’s Resolutions based on these recommendations? This might be reading the report, finding inspiration in our EDI case studies, setting up focus groups with staff to discuss your culture of inclusion and what measures or targets are important to them, and getting some time with a peer to discuss their EDI strategy.

Together, as a sector, we can and must make change happen using the recommendations from our EDI report to engage, measure and act. Our ambition is to drive the change needed for our sector to be a more diverse and inclusive place to work, that reflects the communities we serve.

Next steps for our EDI work

This year the NHF will be working with our EDI in Housing member group to use data to plan the next steps for our work, and ensure we are supporting the sector to make change happen. We will also be refreshing our EDI data tool with Census 2021 data when this is available at local authority level.

We will repeat the data collection exercise in 2023, to give time for EDI strategies and action plans to make an impact and for data gaps to be reduced.

We are very keen to hear how our members are using the EDI data tool, more about their EDI strategies and improving their data, and the impact that these strategies are having (particularly where EDI data is showing the impact.) If you would like to get involved and provide a case study please contact Bethan Buck, External Affairs Manager.

But this is just the beginning. We’re at the start of our journey. For the first time, we have a national picture of the sector’s diversity, and now it’s time to drive real and actionable change, using data as a solid foundation. Let’s push ahead in 2022 and start to implement change to become the most equal, diverse and inclusive sector we can possibly be.