4. Current Outcomes and Standards: Equalities (Charter outcome 1)
The consultation questionnaire asked for views on all 16 current Charter outcomes and standards and the supporting narratives that describe them. The views submitted in relation to each are reported in this and the following chapters respectively. Each chapter commences with the Charter outcome or standard and supporting narrative before summarising views on whether or not the outcome or standard should be kept or changed and suggestions on how to improve the supporting narrative.
EQUALITIES (Charter outcome 1)
Social landlords perform all aspects of their housing services so that every tenant and other customer has their individual needs recognised, is treated fairly and with respect, and receives fair access to housing and housing services.
The outcome describes what social landlords, by complying with equalities legislation, should achieve for all tenants and other customers regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation. It includes landlords' responsibility for finding ways of understanding the needs of different customers and delivering services that recognise and meet these needs.
Question 3a): Would you keep this outcome exactly as it is or change it? Please explain your answer.
4.1 Of the 94 respondents who answered this question 74% considered that the outcome should remain exactly as it is; 19% thought it should change; and 6% did not know. All of the local authority respondents favoured keeping the outcome exactly as it is. Table 4.1 in Annex 2 presents a breakdown of views by respondent category.
Views of those in favour of keeping the outcome as it is
4.2 Most commonly, respondents across a range of sectors considered the outcome to be clear, explicit, and easy to understand by landlords and tenants alike.
4.3 A few respondents commented that the outcome had worked well in practice so far and therefore there was no reason to change it. It was considered to be fair; all-embracing; relevant to future in addition to current needs; and essential to underpin service delivery and improvement.
Views of those in favour of changing the outcome
4.4 An issue raised across a range of sectors was that although the outcome was clearly admirable, achievement of it may be difficult to measure and evidence and may be open to interpretation.
4.5 There were suggestions that guidance and examples could accompany the outcome; or that it could be re-written from the perspective of the customer in a series of statements along the lines of, "I am respected by the landlord", "The landlord communicates clearly with me"; and so on.
4.6 A few respondents felt that the outcome was too broad to be meaningful and is already covered by legislation so perhaps not required explicitly in the Charter.
4.7 One local authority, whilst supporting the aim of the outcome, questioned whether the outcome was actually feasible in all circumstances. They cited an example of where common areas of work could be dependent on the agreement of co-owners in the tenement.
4.8 Two RSLs suggested that rather than standing alone, the outcome should be mainstreamed into all of the other outcomes so as so strengthen and underpin them.
4.9 The Scottish Human Rights Commission recommended that the outcome should reflect "rights" as well as "needs" of tenants and customers reflecting they are rights-holders rather than passive recipients of services.
Question 3b): Please provide any suggestions on how we could improve the supporting narrative
4.10 Eight respondents suggested that additional characteristics be added to the supportive narrative. These were:
- Mental health
- Mental and physical ability (to replace "disability")
- Looked-after children and care leavers
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Minority groups (instead of "needs of different customers", state "different customers and minority groups").
4.11 Two individuals suggested that more emphasis should be given to landlords having to be pro-active to achieve this outcome, rather than regarding it as a box-ticking exercise. Three respondents suggested that a reporting element be added so landlords are required to verify and evidence their progress and actions. Two respondents, both social landlords, advocated mentioning Equality Impact Statements which they suggested were made mandatory for policy and service returns.
4.12 Three respondents, two local authorities and one individual, recognised challenges in achieving this outcome and reporting on it, and suggested wording be added to reflect this. For example, "where legally achievable, reasonable and affordable".