mhs homes Single Equality Scheme “To be the leading affordable housing provider in Medway transforming the lives of people living in the homes and communities we serve.” Aims and Objectives Equality and diversity is integral to everything we do. We believe that excellent customer service means providing a service that is accessible and desirable to all, that the promotion of equality and diversity is essential to our core business and that a diverse customer and staff base requires us to value those differences. We will drive commitment to equality and diversity in service delivery by providing accessible and customer focused services, improved understanding of the customer journey, build capacity to refer customers to other services and increase methods of communication to meet our customer needs. This Single Equality Scheme gives us the opportunity to develop a holistic approach to equality that reflects the importance of diversity and the nine protected characteristics. It defines how mhs homes will achieve its goals; however it is flexible and will adjust to the changing needs of the community, organisation and legislation. Purpose To make public our statement of commitment to equality and diversity; To become an organisation that is fair and inclusive and draws strength from its differences; To improve the quality of life of all our customers and staff; To mainstream equality and diversity so that it is embedded in our day to day work; and To monitor progress against our objectives. We will ensure that all people who use, or wish to use our services and people we employ and work with, will be treated fairly, regardless of their background and personal circumstances, including their (or their families) race, gender, transgender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy and maternity and marriage and civil partnership. Our Single Equality Scheme sets out how we will work with customers, staff and members of the community to review all our services and ensure they do not create barriers to people who wish to access them. About mhs homes We are a leading manager and provider of affordable accommodation in the Medway area of Kent. We own and manage c8,000 properties which are a mixture of flats, maisonettes, studio apartments, houses and bungalows including retirement housing and foyers for young people. mhs homes has been established since 1990 when the entire stock of the Rochester Upon Medway City Council was purchased following a successful ballot of all tenants. We are an Industrial and Provident Society, which means we are a non-profit making organisation. Our organisation is run by a Board made up of executive and non- executive directors, who offer considerable relevant experience. The Board also includes two tenant nominees and one staff nominee. The day-to-day management is undertaken by professional staff. About our customers mhs homes provides quality homes and services for over 10,500 tenants and leaseholders and has an active new development programme. In 2008-09 we rented our homes to a diverse range of people. Around 55% of our tenants are women - and over half of these are heads of household* 27% of our tenants are families with children under 16† 23% of our tenants are over 65* 4.8% our tenants are from a black or minority ethnic (BME) background* 23% of our named tenants have a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity* 15% of our tenants live on a net income of under £100 per week† (figures taken from our Open Housing Database* and 2009 Status Survey†) About where we work - The Medway Community The population of Medway is projected to increase by 11.2% between 2004 and 2029; a total of 28,100 people. River and Strood Rural are both areas that are marked for significant development: the population of River ward is projected to almost triple in size between 2001 and 2026 and the population of Rural Strood is likely to almost double in size. Medway is within the most deprived 43% of local authorities nationally. There is extreme deprivation in Chatham Central, Cuxton and Halling, Gillingham North and South, Hempstead and Wigmore. In 2008 just over 21,000 people in Medway claimed a key benefit. This represents approximately 13% of the working age population. This is higher than the rate in Kent (11.8%) and the South East (9.7%) but lower than the rate in Great Britain (14.1%). Age According to the Medway Housing Needs Survey 2006, the 30-44 age group numbers are predicted to fall. Growth in the Medway population is concentrated in the older age groups, with the 45 – 64 age group (+7,000) and the 65+ age group (+22,400) showing the biggest increases. The retired population will increase by 68.5% by 2029. There is an inextricable link between ageing and disability and 54% of the Medway Community with a disability are over the age of 60. Disability Households in Medway with one or more person with a limiting long-term illness is 30.95%. Of these households, 25.75% have no dependent children and no adults in employment and the other 5.01% have dependent children but the adults are also unemployed. Gender The gender split in Medway reflects that of the UK with 50.7% of the population being female and 49.3% being male. Migration Migration within the housing market has an impact on population balance. 34.7% (7,661) of households who had moved in the last 3 years were from another District. 43.2% (7,269) of existing households who had plans to move in the next 3 years are planning to move out of Medway. In addition 1,253 families are planning to leave Medway, 68% of which are leaving for employment reasons. The key features of population change impacting on the Medway Community housing market are: younger and economically active households coming to Medway from other Districts; an ageing population with increasing care and support needs. Ethnicity In terms of ethnicity, the Medway’s population is 92% White and 8% Black Asian and minority ethnic groups (BAME). According to the Office for National Statistics November 2004 these BAME groups include Black African, Black Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Chinese. However, the National Statistics data does not reflect the growing migrant worker communities which have moved into Medway, or the Gypsy and Traveller community. Religion Christianity is the largest practised religion in Medway. As the population and diversity of Medway grows, the variety of faiths practised and the number of people practising these faiths is likely to increase. The high number of people stating they practised no religion reflects the national trend in the decline of religious belief. The following table shows the number of people practising each religion, according to the Office for National Statistics November 2004. Religion Number of People Proportion of the population Buddhism 538 0.22% Christianity 179,545 71.97% Hinduism 1,687 0.68% Islam 2,609 1.05% Judaism 201 0.08% Sikhism 3,038 1.22% Other religions 850 0.34% Religion not stated 19,367 7.76% No religion 41,653 16.70% (Information taken from the Medway Housing Needs Survey Final Report 2006, Medway 2001 census and Office for National Statistics 2004) mhs homes Single Equality Scheme – An explanation mhs homes has a specific duty to develop and publish equality schemes relating to the Equality Duty 2006. They are: Disability Gender Race The new Equality Act also covers discrimination on grounds of: Faith (Religion or Belief) Age Sexual Orientation Transgender (often included in Gender Equality Duty) Marriage and civil partnership Pregnancy and maternity The Act will ensure a single approach to discrimination against people within these categories, referred to as protected characteristics. The purpose of our Single Equality Scheme is to set out how we intend to deliver fair, transparent and inclusive services within the wider context of human rights and equalities legislation. We aim to: find out what barriers are faced when accessing our services find out what the needs of our customers and employees are and which of these are greatest; communicate our responsibilities as an independent landlord and provider of affordable accommodation in relation to E & D, this will involve: board members, managers, employees, our partners in the public, voluntary and private sectors and our customers; explain how we will promote equality when delivering our services; demonstrate how each of the duties are linked; provide information about our involvement, assessments and training arrangements; work in partnership with other organisations to promote social and community cohesion through valuing diversity and preventing ignorance and prejudice in the wider community; demonstrate what has changed as a result of our Scheme; demonstrate how we have involved customers who represent these groups; and monitor what we are doing and report annually. Our Single Equality Scheme seeks to present a co-ordinated and structured approach to promoting equality of opportunity across all equality strands. The Scheme is to be seen as a ‘living’ document and will operate for a three-year period and reviewed thereafter, as specifically required under a number of the duties. In developing this Single Equality Scheme we gathered evidence from various consultation exercises and also incorporated actions from feedback gathered as a result of tenant meetings. To ensure this scheme is embedded in every business area, policy, process and procedure, focus groups have been held with our employees. In order to obtain the views of service users and members of the public to this scheme, we will publish a draft on our website. This document is also available in alternative formats on request. Feedback will also be sought through the mhs homes customers. mhs homes will feedback the outcomes of the consultations to all stakeholders involved in the consultation process and highlight the changes made as a result of consulting. Leadership and accountabilities Governance mhs homes believes that strong leadership is essential in all areas of work and this should be demonstrated to staff and customers through decision, strategy and policy. We will: work to ensure our Board is representative of the local community; promote Board membership opportunities as widely as possible especially to our customers; appoint the Chair of the Board as Champion for Equality and Diversity; provide regular, accurate and clear information to the Board on our performance in equality and diversity; and address equality and diversity as part of the induction and training of new Board members. Corporate Objectives mhs homes aims to achieve excellence in all its activities and an absolute commitment to equality and diversity is key to this. The development of the Single Equality Scheme will enable mhs homes: to consult with our staff, Board members, customers and stakeholders in the promotion and delivery of equality and diversity issues within our core business; to be committed to providing high quality services that meet our customers’ needs; to ensure we have identified a full profile of our customers; to take positive action to address existing disadvantage and encourage a more inclusive society; to tackle discrimination, harassment and victimisation; to set and meet equality targets and objectives for all relevant service areas as set in our annual Service Improvement Plan; to collect statistical information about our customers to help us develop and provide services that meet their needs; to use ‘vulnerability flags’ on our internal systems to help identify vulnerable people to ensure their needs are known across all service areas and are taken into account when delivering services; to safe guard children and vulnerable adults; to make sure all the information we produce is written in plain English and is available in other formats, including large print, audio tape, Braille and others languages, on request; to offer language and interpretation facilities for those whose first language is not English; to explore employing staff with other community languages to support our customers; to assess the impact of existing and proposed policies, strategies and projects on all diversity strands; and monitoring how well services are delivered. Legislation and what it means to mhs homes Disability Equality Duty The Disability Discrimination (Amendment) Act (DDA) 2005 and the new Disability Equality Duty which came into effect in December 2006 gives mhs homes what are known as ‘general’ and ‘specific’ duties to promote disability equality. Disability equality is about making things fairer for people with disabilities. We are required to meet the general duties under the Act. Producing a Disability Equality Scheme is one of the ‘specific duties’ of the new DDA 2005. A Disability Equality Scheme sets out our plans for making equality real for people with disabilities and promoting disability equality for customers and employees of mhs homes. What it means for mhs homes Disability Discrimination Act (Amended) 2005 and Equality Act 2006 The new general duty means that we must, in carrying out our functions, have due regard to: promoting equality of opportunity between people with disabilities and others; eliminating discrimination which is unlawful under the Act; eliminating harassment of people with disabilities that is related to their disabilities; promoting positive attitudes towards people with disabilities in public life; and taking steps to take account of disabled people’s disabilities even where this involves treating them more favourably than other people. The general duty builds upon the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 including the duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure people with disabilities can access employment, goods, facilities, services, functions and premises. Disability specific duties As part of our Disability Equality Scheme, commitment to equality and diversity and providing equality of opportunity, mhs homes will: produce a disability equality scheme (included within this Single Equality Scheme); carry out impact assessments of relevant policies and functions; collect and study evidence and identify actions and address gaps in achieving disability equality, in relation to the recruitment, retention and development of disabled employees, and the extent to which our services and functions meet the needs of disabled people; involve disabled people in our equality scheme and the review of policies and impact assessments; ensure our premises and sheltered housing schemes are fully accessible for customers with physical and sensory disabilities; ensure we have identified a full profile of our customers and their needs; work to ensure our Board is representative of the local community and that meetings and documents are accessible to all; set and meet equality targets and objectives for all relevant service areas as set in our annual Service Plan; train our staff on disability equality issues and our Equality Scheme; and work with partners and stakeholders to deliver disability equality. The duty to promote disability equality covers everyone who is protected by the DDA 1995, including people who have: learning difficulties; mental health conditions; mobility impairments; visual impairments; hidden impairments; long term debilitating illness as defined within the act; and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Race Equality Scheme The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 amended Section 71 (1) of the 1976 Race Relations Act to place on public bodies a general statutory duty to, in carrying out our functions, have due regard to: promoting equality of opportunity; eliminating racial discrimination which is unlawful under the Act; and promoting good relations between people from different racial groups. Discrimination became unlawful on racial grounds, which means any of the following grounds: Race: for example Jewish, Arab, Sikh Colour: for example black, white Nationality: for example a citizen of the UK, Germany, France Ethnic origin: for example Romany Gypsy National origin: for example English, Scottish, Welsh. A citizen of another country, such as Australia who becomes a UK citizen is Australian by National Origin. What it means for mhs homes Race equality specific duties The general duty is supported by specific duties, which came into effect in December 2001. Under these duties, mhs homes are required to publish a Race Equality Scheme (now within this Single Equality Scheme). As part of our Race Equality Scheme, commitment to equality and diversity and providing equality of opportunity, mhs homes will: ensure that the public have access to the information and services we provide; offer training to staff in connection with the duties; consult with stakeholders and work with them to identify race equality objectives; assess the impact of current and proposed policies and practices on race equality; implement the actions set out in the Race Equality Scheme; and report on progress annually. Race equality employment duty mhs homes will continue to monitor its workforce and publish a report on its profile. We routinely monitor the following by racial and ethnic group: job applications, including those short listed and appointed; staff in post; Board member recruitment; all applications for internal promotion; the job evaluation process; the number of disciplinary and grievance hearings; the reason why staff leave; and the taking up of formal training opportunities by staff. Gender equality duty The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equality Act 2006 gives mhs homes ‘general’ and ‘specific’ duties to promote equality of opportunities for men and women. We are required to meet the general duties under the Act. Producing a Gender Equality Scheme is one of the ‘specific duties.’ The new general duty which amends the above Act, means that we must, in carrying out our functions have due regard to: promoting equality of opportunity between men and women; eliminating unlawful discrimination; and prohibits discrimination in relation to employment, vocational training, housing and provision of goods, services and facilities. A Gender Equality Scheme (now within this Single Equality Scheme) sets out our plans for making equality happen for men and women, who are customers and employees for mhs homes. Understanding Transgender Gender Recognition Action 2004 This Act created a way for transgender people to gain legal recognition for their acquired gender and get a new birth certificate. The Act also includes measures to protect people’s privacy. Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 which amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was set to remove discrimination at work on grounds of gender reassignment. The term ‘transgender’ is often used as a general term for different types of ‘trans’ identities, but it is also used more specifically to identify a particular ‘trans’ group. Transgender as a term is used where people describe themselves as: Transsexual Transgender Transvestite Transgender in the specific sense means people who have been given a diagnosis of transsexual, who go through the transgender process and who have declared an interest/are going through the process of/or have completed the gender re-assignment process. This may involve hormone therapy and surgery. The process is referred to as ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘transitioning.’ ‘Trans’ people often feel they can’t access mainstream services. There is a perception that other services won’t understand, or will judge, and there is a fear that ‘Trans’ people will be considered mentally ill or will raise their profile if they protest against harassment or other unacceptable behaviour. Probably all transgender people will experience some level of harassment and discrimination because of their gender identity. What this means for mhs homes Gender specific duties As part of our Gender Equality Scheme, commitment to equality and diversity and providing equality of opportunity, mhs homes will: publish a Gender Equality Scheme (included within this Single Equality Scheme); develop a system which will prevent, detect and rectify instances in which the pay for work of equal value is not equal between men, women and transgender people; raise awareness of issues that ‘Trans’ groups might face; develop and maintain systems that collect information on how policies and practice affect gender equality in the workforce and in the delivery of services; consult with stakeholders and work with them to identify gender equality objectives; assess the impact of current and proposed policies and practices on gender equality; implement the actions set out in the Single Equality Scheme within three years, unless it is unreasonable or impracticable to do so; and report on progress annually. Other equality strands and protected characteristics mhs homes Single Equality Scheme is not confined to the current statutory duties. In addition to the race, disability, gender and transgender equality strands, this scheme aims to apply the same principles of the equality duties in relation to age, sexual orientation and religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership. The Equalities Bill was introduced to Parliament in April 2009. The majority of the Bill is planned to come into force from Autumn 2010, with some parts having phased introduction from Spring 2011 and beyond. Our scheme will endeavour to prepare us for this legislation. However, we recognise that there may be a requirement to review and amend our approach as the effects of the bill become more apparent. Sexual orientation specific duties The Employment Equality (sexual orientation) Regulations 2003 This provides legislation to protect people against harassment and discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. We respect all employees and customers as individuals and do not discriminate against any customer or employee on the grounds of their sexual orientation. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 states that same sex relationships will be legally recognised. The Equality Act 2006 states that those who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual cannot be victimised or discriminated against due to their sexual orientation. Sexual Orientation Equality Scheme Targets As part of our Sexual Orientation Equality Scheme, commitment to equality and diversity and providing equality of opportunity, mhs homes will: publish a Sexual Orientation Equality Scheme (included within this Single Equality Scheme; share best practice with other housing associations with reference to the collection and use of sexual orientation data; communicate with local charitable organisations related to sexual orientation; raise awareness of issues these groups might face; assess the impact of current and proposed policies on sexual orientation equality; achieve the Stonewall employment accreditation; implement the actions set out in the Scheme, and report on progress annually. Our customers and the community we serve mhs homes will ensure customers feel comfortable and able to communicate with us about their sexual orientation. We will utilise this information to determine if sexual orientation is relevant in relation to the services we deliver, so to ensure everyone has equality of opportunity. Same-sex couples will be treated in the same way as a married couple when accessing our services, including accessing support in domestic violence situations. Employment mhs homes wants to ensure that all employees feel comfortable in disclosing their sexual orientation without fear of discrimination. mhs homes will work to achieve the Stonewall accreditation which will demonstrate that we offer equality of opportunity to all employees. Faith Equality specific duties There are no specific duties directly relating to faith, religion or belief, however, mhs homes recognises that there is legislation that relates to this strand of diversity. We anticipate that Duties relating to this strand will be developed and launched in the future. Legislation relating to this is: The Racial/Religious Hatred Act 2006 states that housing organisations can take action where political or religious extremism can impact on another individual. The Equality Act 2006 also states that it is unlawful to stir up hatred due to a religious belief, likewise, discrimination or victimisation based on a religious belief is prohibited. The Employment Equality Regulations 2003 state that provisions must be made for employees who have a religious belief. Faith Equality Scheme Targets As part of our Faith Equality Scheme, commitment to equality and diversity and providing equality of opportunity, mhs homes will: publish a Faith Equality Scheme (included within this Single Equality Scheme; work with other housing organisations to improve awareness and develop links with faith groups in their communities; enable all employees at mhs homes to access and use information regarding the basic principles of each faith; maintain contacts with local faith groups and organisations in Medway; raise awareness of the Medway Council calendar of religious dates and events to all staff and customers; assess the impact of current and proposed policies and practices and implement the actions set out in the Scheme; report on progress annually. As part of some faiths or beliefs, necessary provisions may be required. The opportunity to have a female repairs operative or a female chaperone, due to religious mourning periods. mhs homes has included this in our Single Equality Scheme and action plan to ensure that we can understand more about these beliefs and are able to respond accordingly. Raising awareness of the components of people’s faiths It is important that mhs homes, our housing officers, stakeholders and customers understand and respect an individual’s faith, religion or belief. For this reason, improving our knowledge and awareness about faiths and groups in Medway is important in understanding the issues that might be faced by their worshippers. Age Equality specific duties The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 make discrimination unlawful on ground of a person’s age and have now extended this regulation to ensure people are no longer denied jobs because of their age and to provide an equal chance of training and promotion. mhs homes is committed to ensuring that the needs of people of different ages (including older people and those requiring support services) are taken into account in the development and provision of its services. What this means for mhs homes We employ a workforce made up of people of a wide range of ages and we give all employees the opportunity to develop their skills and career opportunities whatever their age. We are sensitive to the needs of everyone who works for us and we offer a comprehensive employee benefits package. Age Equality Scheme Targets As part of our Age Equality Scheme, commitment to equality and diversity and providing equality of opportunity, mhs homes will: publish an Age Equality Scheme (included within this Single Equality Scheme; carry out analysis of average age of staff within the organisation; consult with local groups on ages to see what issues they might face, related to housing and the communities they live in; utilise age profile information of our customers; communicate with local charitable organisations related to age (Age Concern, Help the Aged and younger persons charities); assess the impact of current and proposed policies and practices on age equality; implement the actions set out in the Scheme, and report on the progress annually. It is important that mhs homes does not make assumptions about customer’s expectations and needs relating to their age. For mhs homes as an employer, the monitoring of interviews, appraisals, promotions and leaving the company is vital for understanding staff in relation to their age and equality of opportunity. Pregnancy and Maternity Pregnant women enjoy certain rights at work that give them protection during the period of their pregnancy, as well as during maternity leave. mhs homes sets this out in the employee handbook, for more details please refer to the Human Resources Strategy. Marriage and Civil Partnership This characteristic cuts across several of the other equality strands. Under the new Equality Act there is a potential to claim direct discrimination because of a combination of two protected characteristics. mhs homes, as employer and housing provider, must be aware of this and adhere to all relevant legislation. For all the above protected characteristics mhs homes will ensure: customer services and communication - that everyone has the opportunity to communicate with us and feels confident that no discrimination will be faced in doing so; community involvement and consultation - enables everyone to be involved and provides them with every opportunity to comment on how our services are provided and developed; hate crime – we will not tolerate hate crime based on anyone’s sexual orientation, faith, age, gender, transgender, disability or race and we will work with the Medway Police Hate Crime Unit to ensure that any homophobic related crimes or incitement to hate reports are thoroughly investigated. Implementation of the Single Equality Scheme Action 1: Improve access to information and services Central to our approach to equality and diversity is the premise that this is core within everything we do. Services are delivered in ways that are inclusive of customers’ varied needs rather than having ‘add-ons’ to meet the needs of minority groups. We will work alongside all service delivery areas to ensure that equality and diversity are embedded into both their consultation with customers and also into the delivery of services. Customer services will be accessible through a variety of arrangements including visits to service access points, phone and Typetalk, text messaging, email, our mhs homes website, letters and home visits. mhs express High Street office and mhs homes Broadside Head Office are DDA compliant which means that all buildings are accessible and usable under Part M of the Building Regulations (1999). Induction loops are available at service access points and staff are trained to assist customers who are having difficulties accessing services at the counter due to disability or language difficulties. Alternative forms of communication such as large print, audio tapes, sign language, Typetalk, Braille and ALS Language Line are all available to our customers. Action 2: Promote equality and diversity within our strategies and service delivery Letting our homes In letting properties mhs homes operates a policy that seeks to be transparent, equitable and accountable for the benefits of individuals and the community. Different groups of people may have different experiences and outcomes when finding themselves homeless. It is important that mhs homes understand these differences so that they can ensure the needs of different people are met in an appropriate way. Specific support available from us should also be arranged to meet the needs of vulnerable people. It is also important that the use of choice based lettings addresses the specific needs and experiences of people. mhs homes will work in partnership with appropriate organisations to provide housing that meets all customers’ needs, including the best use of homes with aids and adaptations. Your neighbourhood mhs homes actively promotes community cohesion. People can suffer from harassment and anti-social behaviour on many and often multiple diversity grounds. We can help tackle these issues not only through effective communication and management of cases when reported, but also through working in communities and with individuals. mhs homes will work with the Medway Police Hate Crime Unit and other relevant partnerships to ensure that any crimes or incitement to hate reports are thoroughly investigated. This will demonstrate that mhs homes will not tolerate hate crime based on any of the diversity strands. We recognise that housing should make people feel safe and secure, but for some people home can be a place where people are subjected to abuse and violence. The majority of people who report domestic violence are women; but men, same sex relationships, elderly and minority ethnic people can also be victims. We will support anybody who reports domestic abuse and will work towards a solution and/or action against the perpetrator. Building and improving our homes In order to ensure that the new build scheme is reflective of the mhs homes customer needs, the customers will be involved in every feasible aspect of design briefs and evaluation forums. The development team are hosting focus groups to hear the views of the residents who live in our new build properties, to both gain additional feedback on their experience of mhs homes and their property, and their suggestions of prospective improvements. The development team will also be exploring the demand for specialist units such as wheelchair adapted homes, BAME units and accommodation for individuals with different learning or physical needs. At mhs homes, we need to draw on our own customer profile information and tap into Medway Council’s data to identify the demand and determine the provision requirements for these types of units. mhs homes plan to improve all their properties so they continue to meet national standards. We will ensure that our customers have appropriate access to our buildings, and the common areas of our flatted blocks. Additionally we will facilitate improvements and adaptations to customers’ homes. A review of the adaptations process is currently underway to ensure it is meeting our customers’ needs. mhs homes is responsible for maintaining and upgrading all properties. Safety and security in our homes is important to us. We have a planned programme to ensure compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act and will continue to audit our sheltered schemes to ensure that they meet all the requirements. We will explain the nature of the work to be carried out and give our customers timescales and keep them informed every step of the way. mhs homes will continue to ask for representation from our customers to take part in a Tender Evaluation Panel Meeting to help chose which Contractor we should use. Additionally, for our upcoming planned internal improvement works, through customer profiling, we will look to target customers with service need for an OT assessment. These works can then be progressed in partnership with Medway Council/Occupational Therapy to make efficient use of combined resources and Disabled Facilities Grant. Action 3: Utilise profiling information to prioritise and develop our services Involvement and empowerment The circumstances and backgrounds of people, including those with specific needs relating to disability and from different gender groups, may create barriers to engaging in resident involvement activities. This could result in certain groups of people being excluded from influencing how their homes and neighbourhoods are managed. mhs homes understand these potential barriers and work with service users to develop strategies in such a way as to provide fair and equal access to resident involvement. mhs homes will equality impact our resident involvement activities to ensure that they are promoted in positive ways which suit people’s lifestyles and are accessible to people with a disability. We would like customers to feel confident that mhs homes recognises, promotes and supports appropriate resident groups and gives residents access to clear information on the criteria we use when supporting the establishment of residents groups. Comments, compliments and complaints mhs homes welcome any feedback or comments from customers and stakeholders on our service as they provide us with valuable feedback on how we are performing. We aim to provide a high quality service to everyone we work with. We monitor the effectiveness of the complaints by collecting all relevant information and diversity statistics in order to undertake reviews of our policies, strategies, projects and service delivery. We hold information on complainants, number of complaints received, the speed of complaints resolution and tenant satisfaction with the resolution. From this information, we aim to: identify areas of dissatisfaction with the service; highlight areas for service improvement; monitor the effectiveness of service improvements; meet best value requirements; and produce a monthly statistical report. Our comments, compliments and complaints system allows us to monitor customer feedback by age, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion. From the analysis we can act on the outcomes in order to improve service delivery and to ensure our services are fair and fully inclusive. Action 4: Develop equality and diversity issues within our staffing practices and internal systems Our people mhs homes believes that by positively embracing diversity and having a fully inclusive attraction and recruitment policy, we will attract a more diverse pool of applicants from which to recruit. A workforce that reflects the make up of the communities we serve will assist us to improve customer service by being better able to relate to the needs of our diverse customer base. Our employment aims are: to develop a diverse, valued and culturally competent workforce, capable of responding to the needs of the diverse communities we serve; to develop a workforce that is representative of the local community, including representation at senior levels of the organisation and on the Board; to fulfil our commitment to the Jobcentre Plus Two Ticks Disability symbol user to interview those who meet essential requirements for the job, support and make every effort to keep employees who become disabled, to develop disability awareness and annually review our commitments; to fulfil our commitment to deliver 5 days training per year for each member of staff to achieve accreditation in Investors In People to help ensure staff are no longer denied jobs, training or promotion because of their age; we will monitor the number of people on all diversity strands that we employ and involve them in the development of our working policies to provide flexibility for everyone so that they can be themselves, maximise their individual potential and support family and caring structures; provide training for all new and existing employees and board members to raise awareness of equality and diversity and enable them to work and deliver services in a non discriminatory way; and develop a system which will prevent, detect and rectify instances in which the pay for work of equal value is not equal between men, women and transgender people. Training and development mhs homes recognise the importance of ensuring inclusive design and equal access to all staff for training and development. We will establish a monitoring system to establish the extent to which minority groups from the diversity strands access training and development opportunities. mhs homes will also continue to offer equality and diversity training to all its Board and employees on a regular basis. We will also invite our sub-contractors, customers and local management committee members on to diversity training courses when appropriate. Procurement mhs homes are fully committed to promoting equality and diversity through its procurement process. An important part of this commitment is encouraging and, where possible, requiring, companies and other organisations to practise equalities and diversity in employment and service delivery. The evidence on how we measure equality and diversity qualitative aspects within our contracts will need to be demonstrated through our agreed Service Level Agreements offering ‘added value’ assessments within our contracts e.g. flexible appointments for workers, equality and diversity assessments etc. This will all be a continuous improvement measure. Targets mhs homes will set clear targets for service delivery and recruitment by carrying out equality impact assessments and monitoring customer satisfaction with our services. We also set targets for our contractors and suppliers. Compliance by partners will be monitored through an annual review. Targets should be SMART and are reviewed against outcomes achieved but mhs homes recognises that not all progress can be reduced to numbers. Action 5: Champion equality and diversity through our leadership and governance structures mhs homes regards equality and diversity as a key corporate issue which involves all staff, customers as part of its resident and community involvement framework and at the highest strategic level, the Board. Overall responsibility for the Single Equality Scheme rests with the Board of mhs homes who is charged with the responsibility of developing an organisational culture in which the Single Equality Scheme can be implemented by Directors Team and Management and effectively operated. The Chair of the Board of mhs homes acts as Equality and Diversity Champion and the Chief Executive as Champion within the organisation. All staff receive structured diversity awareness training which has been tailored to reflect the mhs homes business ethos and local operating conditions and share the same accountability and responsibility for diversity. Board training sessions have also been delivered to help non- Executives gain a comprehensive understanding of the needs of people who make up our community and how mhs homes is addressing those needs. We take positive steps to ensure that all services to customers are shaped around their needs and requirements by making sure each strategy, policy or project has undergone an equality impact assessment. Monitoring mhs homes take the view that it is essential that any actions relating to equality and diversity be monitored to ensure progress is being made towards goals. We will monitor our outcomes via the action plans set out in our Single Equality Scheme. We will continue to monitor customer satisfaction in our key service areas. Annual monitoring cycles set a baseline and give a clear view on how well we are achieving our goals. Without monitoring, our actions may never be more than aspirations.