We prioritise equality and human rights
We are committed to promoting equality and human rights in how we regulate because tenants and other service users of all backgrounds are at the heart of our work. These rights mean that everyone should be treated fairly with dignity and respect. We work to empower tenants and other service users, and to give them a voice.
Social landlords must meet the requirements of relevant equalities and human rights legislation. This includes working to understand the individual needs of their tenants and other service users, and to deliver services that recognise and meet these needs. We are also committed to promoting equality within our organisation.
What the Scottish Social Housing Charter says
Some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland use landlords’ services and many have one or more of the protected characteristics that are named in the Equality Act 2010. The Scottish Government’s Scottish Social Housing Charter sets standards and outcomes that all social landlords should aim to achieve when performing their housing activities. Outcome one requires that:
“Social landlords perform all aspects of their housing services so that every tenant and other
customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and
receives fair access to housing and housing services”. It also says that landlords have a
responsibility “…for finding ways of understanding the needs of different customers and
delivering services that recognise and meet these needs”.
People who are homeless, and Gypsy/Travellers who use official sites provided by social landlords, are not specifically named as protected characteristic groups but in our work we often regulate to safeguard and promote their interests through an equality lens. We know, for example, that many Gypsy/Travellers face challenges in their daily lives because of unfair treatment or discrimination.
Our commitment to our own staff
We are also committed to treating our own people equally without discrimination because of gender, sexual orientation, marital or civil partner status, gender reassignment, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, disability or age. We draw exclusively on Scottish Government HR services and adopt its progressive policies to help us meet that commitment.
Our equalities duties
We regulate social landlords’ services to tenants and others rather than directly delivering services ourselves. Therefore, unlike many public bodies, we have a relationship with service users that is indirect. Nevertheless, we aim to encourage better and positive equality outcomes for service users through our regulation of social landlords. We are committed to meeting our equality duties and performing our functions in a way which achieves that aim. We also continue to explore the views, priorities and experiences of tenants and service users through our National Panel of tenants and service users, with the aim of enhancing our understanding of equality impacts across the social housing sector.
Our duties under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010
These require us to perform our functions in a way which encourages equal opportunities and in particular the observance of the requirements of the law relating to equal opportunities.
Our duties under the Equality Act 2010
These duties requires us, as a public authority, in the exercise of our functions, to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct that is prohibited by the Equality Act 2010;
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not; and
- foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
In May 2012 the Scottish Parliament approved regulations setting out specific duties that apply to listed public authorities in Scotland. In 2017, a socio-economic duty was introduced; now called the Fairer Scotland duty.
We are not a listed body, and so the specific duties do not apply to us. Nevertheless, we aim to act in the spirit of the duties in a way that is relevant and proportionate to our role, status and activities.
What social landlords must do to promote equality
Scottish social landlords are covered by aspects of the Equality Act 2010, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 and in some cases the Human Rights Act 1998. Social landlords can make use of available guidance and practical support materials on complying with equalities legislation and to seek advice where appropriate.
Our commitment to promote equality and human rights
Our new regulatory framework, effective from April 2019, commits us to promoting equality and human rights in how we regulate. It strengthens our requirement that social landlords will meet the obligations placed upon them by relevant legislation. We engage with landlords where necessary to seek assurance that our requirements are met.
What we require of social landlords
Social landlords must work to understand the individual needs of their tenants and other service users, and to deliver services that recognise and meet these needs. As part of this we require landlords to ask for equalities information from their tenants and other service users, and to use it to inform their decision making. Social landlords must take equalities impacts into account when taking decisions that affect their tenants and other service users.
We further expect landlords to facilitate joint working with tenants and other service users to help ensure customer-focused decision making which recognises that people with different protected characteristics may have different needs.
Through our regulatory role we further promote equality across social landlords by, for example:
- conducting thematic inquiries on equalities where appropriate;
- highlighting and sharing positive practice where we find it; and
- providing accessible and comparable information about each landlord’s performance to empower tenants and other service users, and give them a voice.
We have set Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Management for social landlords. One Standard is that social landlords conduct their affairs with honesty and integrity. This requires landlords to pay due regard to eliminate discrimination, advance equality and foster good relations across the range of protected characteristics. The standards also require registered social landlords (RSLs) to have effective plans in place to ensure that suitable people are readily available to take on leadership roles on their governing bodies when others leave or need to be replaced. This planning should take into account how they will achieve the appropriate and effective composition and profile of governing body members. Achievement of the RSL’s business purpose is helped by having a diverse governing body that can better understand its tenants, other service users, staff and the wider environment within which it operates.
Each year we require landlords to confirm through their Annual Assurance Statement that they comply with our requirements, or what they are doing to improve their compliance.
What we have done to promote equality
In September 2015 we outlined our equalities objectives:
- we understand the perspective of people with protected characteristics who use social landlords’ services and our regulatory policies reflect this;
- we safeguard the interests of tenants and other service users with protected characteristics;
- we are accessible, and we engage with tenants, service users and other stakeholders in a way that meets their needs; and
- we encourage diversity and promote equality as an employer, and our staff are knowledgeable on equality issues and how they impact on our work.
These objectives helped us to plan our activity and focus our efforts in how we regulate in the best interests of tenant and other service users. They further aided our work within our own organisation to ensure that all of our people are treated equally and feel valued.
Objective 1: We understand the perspective of people with protected characteristics who use social landlords’ services and our regulatory policies reflect this.
What we did:
- We consulted directly with equalities groups on plans for our new regulatory framework.
- We undertook an equality impact assessment of our plans for the new regulatory framework. This informed the choices that we made.
- We published several equalities related thematic studies and other reports including those on Gypsy/Travellers site standards, openness and accessibility, equalities data collection and homelessness in Glasgow.
- We spoke to our National Panel about equalities related issues, and every year we published the outcomes of those conversations covering topics such as rent affordability, Gypsy/Traveller accommodation, digital engagement and experiences of homelessness services.
- We considered the equalities impacts of the transfer of assets at Kincardine Housing Co-operative.
- We worked with our tenant advisors to bring the tenant perspective to our work.
Objective 2: We safeguard the interests of tenants and other service users with protected characteristics.
What we did:
- We published a new regulatory framework and corporate plan which emphasised equality and human rights as being integral to all of our work.
- We gave tenants an effective way to bring to us significant performance failures by their landlord.
- We wrote to providers of Gypsy/Traveller sites to seek assurance about site standards and fire safety.
- We engaged with Glasgow City Council and Glasgow based RSLs to seek assurance about the provision of accommodation for people who are homeless.
- We used our intervention powers at a number of organisations to protect the interests of tenants and other service users.
- We promoted to landlords the importance of involving tenants and others who use their services in the scrutiny of their performance.
- We spoke about the things that tenants and other service users tell us are important to them such as affordability, Gypsy/Traveller accommodation and the experiences of people who are homeless.
Objective 3: We published a new regulatory framework and corporate plan which emphasised equality and human rights as being integral to all of our work.
What we did:
- We launched our new simpler to navigate website to help ensure that everything we publish is accessible to all.
- We empowered tenants and others by publishing landlord performance information in accessible and useful ways, to enable them to ask questions and hold their landlords to account.
Objective 4: We encourage diversity and promote equality as an employer, and our staff are knowledgeable on equality issues and how they impact on our work.
What we did:
- We provided training and ongoing support on equalities issues to our staff.
- We supported our staff by providing training from wellbeing experts.
- We provided guidance to staff that sets out how equalities issues should be considered in their
everyday work. This includes how these considerations should be evidenced and recorded.
- We gathered annual feedback through our Staff Survey which we published and then acted upon.
- We continued to commit to increasing the diversity of staff within the organisation, and to valuing positively the different perspectives and
- skills of all staff. We published data on the gender balance of our staff.
- We continued to support the Scottish Government's 50/50 by 2020 campaign. We published data on the gender balance of our Board.
What we will do to promote equality
These four objectives will remain in place for the next three years. We will consolidate and build upon our achievements by:
- getting assurance and evidence that landlords consider equality and human rights issues properly when making all of their decisions, in the design and review of internal and external policies, and in their day-to-day service delivery;
- getting assurance and evidence that landlords fully comply with their responsibilities under relevant human rights and equalities legislation;
- empowering and supporting tenants and other service users by giving them accessible information about their landlord;
- speaking to tenants and other service users about the things that are important to them, and taking their views into account in how we regulate;
- equipping our staff with the skills and knowledge they need to be effective in promoting equality; and
- understanding the needs of our staff on an on-going basis and through our annual staff survey.