Housing with Pride? Supporting social housing providers to improve their services for LGBTQ+ residents
In this blog, Professor Andrew King discusses the ground-breaking study he has been involved in with HouseProud where they’ve developed a pledge scheme to foster better relations between housing associations and LGBTQ+ residents.
What does it mean when organisations say they are supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ+ people? What evidence is there that this is the case? In the social housing sector, how inclusive and supportive are providers?
No Place Like Home?
Home can be a contested space for LGBTQ+ people. Our study, ‘No Place Like Home’ based on research commissioned by HouseProud, the network for LGBT+ people working in social housing, was a landmark study in the UK social housing sector and found a very mixed picture. Whilst some LGBTQ+ social housing residents felt listened to by their housing provider, others identified a lack of support, poor responses to experiences of harassment and the need for providers in the sector to ‘do more, do better’. Or as one resident interviewed in the study put it: “to go beyond a tick-box approach towards equality”.
But how to do more and better and get beyond that ‘tick box’? Over the past 18 months we’ve been undertaking a knowledge exchange project funded by CaCHE, collaborating with HouseProud, Stonewall Housing, Tonic Housing, several major social housing providers and most importantly LGBTQ+ social housing residents, to translate the recommendations from our research into social housing policy and practice.
The Housing with Pride Knowledge Exchange project
First we developed and launched the HouseProud Pledge Scheme. This is an easy-to-adopt framework to foster engagement between housing providers and LGBTQ+ residents. Designed to enhance existing resident involvement activities and encourage new partnerships, it ensures that residents can have direct and long-lasting impacts. Housing providers have a year to deliver three core Pledge Scheme commitments, which are: LGBTQ+ resident input at senior/strategic level; show they are committed to the values of the Pledge and LGBTQ+ inclusivity by displaying support for the pledge scheme on corporate and resident communications; and initiating a programme of staff training about LGBTQ+ lives and resident concerns. Following the delivery of these commitments, providers can choose to commit to additional pledges. These would see them work with involved LGBTQ+ residents to set achievable and time-bound goals on an ongoing basis.
Endorsed by the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, London, over the course of the Housing with Pride project, 11 social housing providers, representing over 1.5 million residents nationwide, signed-up to these core commitments. More have signed up since.
Our aim has been to track progress putting the Pledge into practice, through supportive workshops for staff about LGBTQ+ residents’ lives and concerns and ways these can be addressed. Working with LGBTQ+ residents, we developed a short animation video to help demonstrate the findings of our research and why action is needed. Stonewall Housing have been providing specialist training to housing sector staff and collectively we’ve been raising awareness about the need for housing providers to be supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ+ lives and concerns more widely at events and conferences.
What we learned
Knowledge exchange is all about two-way learning and that has certainly been the case with Housing with Pride. Working collaboratively within the sector, reviewing progress and goals at regular project meeting attended by key stakeholders, including LGBTQ+ residents, we urge all social housing providers to take the following approach to engage with LGBTQ+ residents in ways that are:
- Supportive – initiated by residents’ concerns and issues (not just organisational targets)
- Regular – not a one off, but a series of planned meetings and actions.
- Purposeful – providing the space and resources for residents’ concerns to be addressed is essential.
- Enabling – LGBTQ+ residents have an enormous range of skills and providing ways to enable these skills to be brought to any diversity and inclusion initiative is important and empowering.
A similar approach needs to be taken with housing provider staff, many of who really do want their organisations and services to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ+ residents. We found it was good practice to bring staff and residents together, in open and supportive ways to discuss what actions were needed. Senior management commitment is important too, and we were fortunate to have several senior champions from the outset.
LGBTQ+ social housing residents and COVID-19
As we came to the end of the Housing with Pride project, the COVID-19 crisis gathered force and lockdown restrictions were introduced. With initial research suggesting that this crisis is significantly impacting LGBTQ+ communities, including issues of safety and security at home and increasing the possibility of homelessness, the findings from our research shouldn’t be considered any less important because of the current pandemic. COVID-19 and lockdown are likely to have exacerbated issues of harassment, discrimination and isolation that we found and the need for properly supported LGBTQ+ initiatives are as important now as ever.
To view the full report on ‘Housing with Pride? Supporting social housing providers to improve their services for LGBTQ+ residents’ please click here.
Views expressed by authors may not represent the views of CaCHE.
Date: November 17, 2020 6:52 am
Author(s): Professor Andrew King
Categorised in: Cross-cutting