We promote equality
Some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland use social landlords’ services and many have one or more of the protected characteristics that are listed in the Equality Act 2010. These are Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage or civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion or belief, Sex and Sexual orientation. Social housing tenants and other service users – such as homeless people and Gypsy/Travellers – have rights that mean they should be treated fairly with dignity and respect. These people are at the heart of our work.
Social landlords must meet the obligations placed upon them by 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 ensuring equality within all levels of our own organisation. This means we treat 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.
What the Scottish Social Housing Charter requires of social landlords
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:
- they support the right to adequate housing; and
- every tenant and other service user has their individual needs and rights recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services.
This outcome describes what social landlords, by meeting their statutory duties on equalities should achieve for all tenants and other service users. It includes landlords' responsibility for finding ways of understanding the rights and needs of different service users, for example survivors of domestic abuse and vulnerable children, and delivering services that recognise and meet these.
The Charter also sets standards and outcomes that social landlords must deliver for homeless people and Gypsy/Travellers. We regulate services to them through an equality lens. More broadly, the principal of treating tenants, homeless people and Gypsy/Travellers equally and fairly is a theme that runs throughout all of the 16 Charter standards and outcomes.
What we do
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 achieving that aim in how we work. We listen to the experiences and views of tenants and other service users to help us develop our approach. We do this through four main routes which are our:
- National Panel work;
- the liaison group for Regional Tenant organisations;
- Tenant advisor group; and
- thematic work we may undertake.
Housing (Scotland) Act 2010
The Act requires us to perform our functions in a way which encourages equality and in particular the observance of the requirements of the law relating to equal opportunities.
Equality Act 2010
The Act 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 2018, the Fairer Scotland duty was introduced. The duty places a legal responsibility on listed bodies in Scotland to actively consider how they can reduce inequalities of outcome, caused by economic disadvantage.
We are not a listed body, but 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 do
Scottish social landlords are covered by:
- aspects of the Equality Act 2010,
- the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010;
- in some cases the Human Rights Act 1998; and
- our relevant regulatory requirements.
Social landlords make use of available guidance and practical support materials on complying with equalities legislation and can seek advice where appropriate.
Our regulatory framework commits us to promoting equality and human rights in how we regulate. This includes requiring that social landlords meet the obligations placed upon them by relevant legislation. We engage with landlords where necessary to seek assurance that they do this.
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. As part of this, 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.
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.
Through our regulatory role we further promote equality across social landlords by, for example, conducting thematic inquiries on equalities where appropriate and providing accessible and comparable information about each landlord’s performance to empower tenants and other service users, and give them a voice. We expect 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.
Our Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Management also say 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. More broadly, equalities should be a key thread that is mainstreamed through the overall strategies of RSLs.
We have promoted equality
In our previous Statement 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 and focus our efforts in how we regulate to best promote equalities in the best interests of tenant and other service users, and within our own organisation.
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 worked with others to develop guidance for landlords’ collection of equalities data from tenants and other service users.
- We published a thematic on homelessness.
- We published updated advice for landlords on getting feedback from tenants and other service users, and to help ensure the broadest reach.
- 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 and experiences of homelessness services.
Objective 2: We safeguard the interests of tenants and other service users with protected characteristics.
What we did:
- We continued to give tenants an effective way to bring to us significant performance failures by their landlord.
- We continued to engage with councils 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 published a rents thematic with a focus on ensuring affordability for tenants.
- We appointed a diverse group of tenant advisors to bring the tenant perspective to our work. They undertook equalities and diversity training.
- We asked our tenant advisors for feedback on our previous Equalities Statement.
Objective 3: We are accessible, and we engage with tenants, service users and other stakeholders in a way that meets their needs.
What we did:
- We empowered tenants and others by continuing to publish landlord performance information in accessible and useful ways, to enable them to effectively engage with their landlord.
- We made improvements to our website and publications to meet high accessibility standards.
- We aim to make it as easy as possible for those who use British Sign Language (BSL) to access our information. Our BSL Plan sets out how we will promote and support BSL.
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 have equalities and other related training for our staff and a dedicated equalities lead.
- We supported the well-being of our staff through the pandemic by, for example, making relevant resources available.
- We gathered annual feedback through our Staff Survey which we published and acted upon.
- We published data on the gender balance of our staff and Board.
- We followed equalities best practice in our recruitment of new staff.
We will continue to promote equality
These four objectives will remain in place for the next three years. We will consolidate and build upon our achievements by continuing or enhancing the above, but also undertaking other relevant work such as:
- ensuring equalities and human rights issues are reflected in landlords’ submission of their annual assurance statements;
- undertaking a full equalities impact assessment to inform the decisions we make in our upcoming Regulatory Framework review;
- considering relevant thematic work;
- considering our role in the monitoring, assessment and reporting of temporary accommodation standards in the provision of homelessness services;
- working to develop guidance for landlords on human rights; and
- developing a programme of work for our tenant advisors.