A New Labour Government: What It Means for Equalities and Housing

    Our thoughts at HDN have inevitably turned to what the election of a new government will mean for equalities and housing. We’ve actually had some informed debates on this – hosting a webinar with key figures from housing and the Labour Party in June, as well as doing some crystal ball gazing with boards and leadership teams in recent months.

    The first port of call is to look at the manifesto which although it is high-level does talk about the importance of creating a fair and inclusive society where everyone has equal opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of their background. The main things that stand out in terms of what the new government will do are:

    Socioeconomic Equality: We think that this has the potential to be a game changer.  The socio-economic duty requires public bodies to adopt transparent and effective measures to address the inequalities that result from differences in occupation, education, place of residence or social class. We’ve always argued that when it comes to public services, the sharp elbows of the middle class mean that they get the best deal in everything. This includes housing and related services. Could this duty be one of the factors which encourages the building of more social housing?

    Racial Equality: The manifesto commits to granting the right to equal pay for Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority people, and protecting against dual discrimination. Ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers will also be introduced. We know that some of our members are more than just landlords and run employment support programmes in diverse communities; this will be of real interest to them.

    Gender Equality: Labour promises to close the gender pay gap through mandatory reporting and action plans for companies. The manifesto advocates for stronger rights for working parents, including improved maternity and paternity leave, and affordable childcare. Labour also plans to combat violence against women and girls by ensuring better funding for support services and tougher penalties for perpetrators.

    LGBTQ+ Rights: The manifesto reaffirms Labour’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, including banning conversion therapy and ensuring comprehensive healthcare for transgender individuals. Labour aims to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to obtain legal recognition of their gender.

    Disability Rights: Labour’s manifesto highlights the need to improve the lives of disabled individuals by enhancing accessibility and support. This includes ensuring that public spaces and transportation are accessible, providing adequate social care, and promoting employment opportunities for disabled people. Labour also intends to overhaul the benefits system to ensure it meets the needs of disabled individuals.

    There are also measures in the manifesto to tackle hate crime – we have a couple of blogs coming up on antisemitism and islamophobia – so more of that later.

    So, what’s missing?

    The obvious one is a more joined up approach to addressing race disparities. We know that t the Better Social Housing Review said that ethnicity was the overwhelming factor when it came to housing provision and the quality of services.

    To address this, we propose that when public bodies develop policies and programmes that race equality should be a positive aspiration not a tick box exercise. Equality Impact Assessments should be used effectively to inform policy, and organisations should tackle institutional racism in their decision-making. The housing sector used to have Race Equality Strategies to provide a sense of direction and measurement of progress – is it time to bring these back? Should there be an overarching government-led strategy that feeds into all governmental departments such as the Regulator and Homes England?

    One other thing. Since 2010 there has been a systematic undermining of enforcement of equality legislation. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) budget has not only not risen in line with inflation but has seen sharp cuts in funding and staffing. The limited resources that the EHRC is working on means that enforcement is not strong enough, and this is also something that needs to be addressed.

    Written by,

    Mushtaq Khan,

    Chief Executive at Housing Diversity Network

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