Much has already been written on the potential implications of the vote to Leave the EU. The result from the referendum was surprising for many, what has been possibly more surprising, and certainly very concerning, has been the apparent rise in racist and xenophobic abuse that has followed it. This short term impact can potentially have long lasting implications for the communities we work with. In a time of great uncertainty for many, the role of housing providers as employers and key community institutions is vital.
We set out below a few sources of advice for organisations on how they can deal with this. We will be organising a series of events in the coming months around some of the community cohesion impacts and what housing providers can do, sharing advice and practice to make sure we are all well placed to support our communities.
It is important for organisations to get clear messages out that they value their diverse workforces and communities. Many organisations and public bodies have provided public statements and organised events to get this message across. This can be important not just for those that have experienced direct abuse or harassment but others who may feel worried for a wide variety of reasons.
For those that experience abuse or harassment the EHRC has provided a list of places to report it. Many housing providers are hate reporting centres so will have systems in place already.
Citizens Advice also provide guidance on reporting hate crime.
Supporting your staff
There is a huge amount of uncertainty about what the current position means for the country as a whole and those who live and work here. As an employer it is important to be able to reassure staff where possible.
For staff worried about, or subject to abuse or harassment the different forms of support outlined above may be appropriate. The Chair of the EHRC has also written on what employers should do. Some organisations may also have internal forms of advice and support in the form of diversity leads or champions that may be able to help. There may also be access to online or telephone support through your own employer.
As an employer you also need to consider the duty of care to your staff and to work to avoid conflict within the workplace. The CIPD has useful advice here.
With regard to the employment status of those from the EU, as well as more general implications of UK employment law, again, the CIPD have some useful blogs and articles on the impact of Brexit and will be worth following for updated guidance.
Working with your communities
Many housing providers have a history of community cohesion work. Despite some of this work reducing in recent years they are still well placed in their communities to play a strong role in reducing community tensions and, in the longer term, providing opportunities for discussion and for voices to be heard.
We produced a report in 2014 on the work housing providers do. What was interesting in that report was how the debate around community cohesion had shifted from one primarily about race and ethnicity to one around the impacts of poverty. The last week has seen significant changes in the debate. The report is available here and contains useful examples of what providers have done around community cohesion.
There are also ‘myth buster’ resources available around immigration, asylum and refugees. The Refugee Council provides these – http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/policy_research/the_truth_about_asylum – local organisations may also have developed similar resources that you can use.
For some of the wider political, legal and economic implications of the Leave vote, Lucy Pedrick at the National Housing Federation has produced a briefing, available here.
Finally, Housing Diversity Network will be providing more advice and guidance over the coming months and will share examples of what the housing sector is doing in response. Please get in touch if you have anything to contribute or if you have any questions.
Sallie Bridgen and Alison Burns
Joint Chief Executives, Housing Diversity Network