BLOG: Social housing and the importance of the LBGTQ+ ally programme
Andrew White is Head of Independent Living at Irwell Valley Homes, in Greater Manchester. He has worked in social housing, primarily in the fields of supported housing and housing partnerships, […]
Published: 14 Jun, 2023

Andrew White is Head of Independent Living at Irwell Valley Homes, in Greater Manchester. He has worked in social housing, primarily in the fields of supported housing and housing partnerships, for over 25 years.

In this blog, Andrew discusses the launch of Irwell Valley Homes’ LGBTQ+ Ally program, aiming to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals in social housing, highlighting the importance of allyship and the need to address discrimination and biases.

At Irwell Valley Homes, we are launching our LGBTQ+ Ally programme in Pride month 2023. It is something we have been working on for several months, but what is it, why do we need it, and what do we hope to achieve?
Irwell Valley Homes value the diversity of the communities we work with and the colleagues we employ, but we know we can do more to ensure we hear the more marginalised voices in our communities and more to understand the experience of the LGBTQ+ colleagues who work for us.

Over 25 social housing providers (plus more affiliated LGBTQ+ organisations) in the northwest of England are members of HouseProud NorthWest. HPNW, for short, is the network for social housing providers to improve the way we engage, support & deliver services to our LGBTQ+ communities and colleagues across the northwest of England. By sharing good practice between members, Irwell Valley developed our own LGBTQ+ Ally training course.

A conversation with colleagues at Stockport Homes inspired the Ally approach – that is, to bring the audience along with the two hosts of the training, one being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the other a “straight ally”. Through lively and accessible content, participants will be encouraged to explore their biases, build knowledge and confidence, develop empathy – and ultimately – to think, relate and act, as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

Our home is – or should be – our refuge and our place of safety. Research by the University of Surrey (“No Place Like Home”, 2017) found that 60% of trans people felt their neighbourhood was an unsafe place to live and one in five gay men reported modifying their home in some way (e.g. moving pictures or books) to hide their sexual orientation from a visiting repairs operative or housing officer. A third of respondents also felt that their housing provider was not able to deal effectively with issues like harassment.
Likewise in the workplace, Stonewall’s “LGBT in Britain – Work Report” (2018) found that more than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. One in ten black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (10 per cent) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year. Nearly two in five bi people (38 per cent) aren’t out to anyone at work.

So as much as we think we provide inclusive services to our customers and that we feel our colleagues can be their authentic selves, the reality for some people may be quite different.
The ally training aims to support colleagues to be more supportive of their co-workers and our customers. We hope it may change people’s behaviour, raising and challenging unconscious biases. We want colleagues to feel more confident in stepping up or speaking out when they witness exclusion. We also want the format to inspire other colleagues who may represent other groups or communities to lead on their own awareness training, bring their experience and expertise to a wider audience, helping break down any barriers to productive and healthy colleague and customer relationships.

The pilot sessions we have run have been well received, and from them, we have a number of LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies ready to deliver the training. We’ll learn from and modify the training as we roll it out, seeing which areas land well and which need review. None of the colleagues delivering the sessions are ‘trained trainers’ – but we are all passionate about making a difference, improving people’s experience and creating a better understanding of the diversities we seek to promote. We hope the training will help people understand that our society will function so much better if we stop, and listen, asking respectful questions about each other, remaining curious and open to lifestyles, communities and cultures other than simply the ones we identify with ourselves.

Relevant links:

No Place like Home? Exploring the concerns, preferences and experiences of LGBT*Q social housing residents. Findings from the 2017 HouseProud HomeSAFE study

You may also be interested in…

Skip to content