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Helping to create homes that meet elderly and disabled people’s needs, Homes England is aiming to improve diversity and inclusion in the housing sector as it launches its first annual Equality, Diversity and Inclusion report.

The UK Government’s housing agency has pledged to work with its partners to create a more inclusive industry that addresses the needs of the diverse communities it serves as part of the five objectives it will focus on over the next four years in order to become a more inclusive, equal and diverse workplace.

One of the organisation’s main measures will be to set expectations of its partners by requesting diversity and inclusion commitments from panel members for all future panel procurements.

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Homes England is currently developing a replacement for its Delivery Partner Panel of developers and contractors (DPP3), which is due to go live next financial year. The project team is developing criteria to support greater diversity and inclusion in the industry and include these as a condition for joining the panel.

In addition, the agency says it will ensure its services represent the society it serves and will review how well it is fulfilling its duty to create inclusive, equal access to its services, making the changes necessary to ensure this.

Olivia Scanlon, Homes England’s Board Sponsor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “Issuing our first equality, diversity and inclusion report is a real step forwards and demonstrates how far we’ve come as an agency: we’ve been named one of Stonewall’s Top 100 employers, a Top 20 Trans Employer and have undergone significant cultural change.

“At Homes England we want to make homes happen for everyone, and we can only truly achieve that by creating a workplace– and an industry –where everyone is able to be themselves.”

Inaccessible and unsuitable homes in England have consistently made headlines over the last few years, highlighting how they do not meet the needs of elderly and disabled people, such as housing not being wheelchair accessible, people spending more than one year waiting for vital home adaptations and people not being able to access the upstairs of their homes.

On the 22nd of July 2020, an independent inquiry examining housing in England was launched by the National Housing Federation and the Housing Association, after data found almost 10 million people spent the coronavirus lockdown in a home that seriously threatened their health and safety.

Furthermore, recent research by disability charity Leonard Cheshire revealed that from 2015-2019, 67 percent of councils in England had disabled residents waiting longer than the 12-month statutory deadline for completing essential home adaptation work.

Building on the evidence of the worrying lack of unsuitable housing across England, Homes England’s latest report sets out to create more homes that meet everyone’s needs.

“Work is already ongoing to deliver positive change to our procurement process and determine how we can improve diversity and inclusion through our supply chain,” Olivia continued. “This sends a clear message to our partners about our expectations of them and will ensure the homes we deliver truly fit the requirements of the people who live in them.”

One of the agency’s key objectives to promote and actively contribute to the delivery of housing that meets the needs of vulnerable people, such as those with restricted mobility.

Homes England will set out to achieve this by: training colleagues to increase understanding of the Public Sector Equality Duty; monitoring the impact of homes in diverse communities; improving its understanding of the housing needs of the diverse communities, identifying gaps in the current market and taking steps to address them; and leading projects to understand housing inequalities and exploring them with partners and stakeholders.

To help make this objective a reality, the agency’s priorities for 2020/21 are to roll out training on the Public Sector Equality Duty and to demonstrate the impact of homes delivered on diverse communities.

The Public Sector Equality Duty is a duty on public authorities to consider how their policies or decisions affect people who are protected under the Equality Act. People who are protected under the Equality Act have protected characteristics, which include age, disability, gender reassignment, sex and sexual orientation.

To comply with this Equality Duty, public sector organisations must eliminate unlawful discriminations and advance equality of opportunity.

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