The Diversity, Inclusion, Community Cohesion and Equalities (DICE) working group of Greater Manchester Housing Providers (GMHP) first commissioned the baseline survey in 2020, calling on its members to hold up a mirror to the work they were doing to tackle inequalities which could be experienced by customers and colleagues.
Now, more than two years on, the findings of the follow-up survey completed by 23 housing providers across the Greater Manchester city region have revealed where progress has been made – and where the focus needs to be moving forward to ensure ongoing improvements.
The most significant change towards ensuring organisations reflected the communities they serve was at board level, with 11 organisations reporting more representation of ethnic minorities on their board of management in 2022, compared to 2020.
Organisations had targeted more diverse groups using specialist recruitment agencies and via community organisations and partners, placing greater value on lived experience and community knowledge.
Mentoring and affirmative action – which was used by just under a quarter of respondents – were two of the other more common methods, use of which had grown since 2020.
Responding to the cost-of-living crisis over the course of 2022 had also led to an increased focus on socio-economic disadvantage.
The research showed progress had been made by some organisations to improve the quality of the data they hold about customers and colleagues, including making surveys easier to complete through an app.
Sasha Deepwell, Chair of the DICE working group and Chief Executive of Irwell Valley Homes who carried out the research, said: “The second DICE survey has revealed a wealth of valuable work going on across the north-west to promote equality, diversity and inclusion by attracting and nurturing more diverse talent and ensuring the experiences of the customers we serve are represented at all levels.
“It is encouraging to see the progress made – with increased visibility for ethnic minorities at board level; more targeted efforts to collect accurate and meaningful customer data; increased investment in how to use this data for maximum impact and much more – including an important focus on mitigating the effects of the cost-of-living crisis which have a disproportionate impact on the people GMHP serves.”
The follow-up report also found areas for ongoing improvement, including increasing representation of other characteristics, such as those around disabilities and age.
It highlighted that collecting data and interpreting it remained an on-going challenge and some organisations reported a skills shortfall in how to harness customer data effectively within strategies, policies and services to deliver tangible results.
Issues identified in 2020 around the unwillingness of tenants to disclose data continued to challenge organisations in 2022, while data about colleague diversity continued to focus on job applicants – with less emphasis on monitoring the diversity of leavers or those progressing within the organisation.
As in 2020, the latest research found many examples of good practice, including advertising jobs in more diverse spaces such as online groups for those with neurodiversity; introducing staff discussion groups to improve learning and understanding of issues around mental health, wellbeing and the menopause, and using data more effectively to identify and provide proactive and tailored support to those in rent arrears or at risk of rent arrears, against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis.
Sasha added: “It’s clear there is more work to be done to ensure the diverse communities of Greater Manchester are represented and engaged with effectively across our membership. We are committed to building on what we’ve achieved so far – delivering lasting change and developing the tools we need to measure where we are making an impact, and what still needs to be addressed.
“We’re extremely proud that the initial research, carried out by Irwell Valley Homes, inspired several other studies of its kind. It also helped formulate the National Housing Federation’s EDI data tool, which allows organisations to compare their workforce to the communities they serve and measure the impact of their actions to improve. All of this is coming together to make a tangible contribution towards tackling inequalities in Greater Manchester, and beyond.”