Over the course of the last year we have taken a close look at key areas of the housing business from a value for money perspective – including resident involvement, responsive repairs, and most recently IT, and a recent publication by Professor Peter Saunders (The Rise of the Equalities Industry) caught our eye and got us thinking about the price of equality.
Most organisation’s we’ve come across (and certainly most of the sector wide benchmarking we’ve come across) don’t necessarily account for the cost of diversity activities in the same way as they might for core operations or ‘overheads’ such as communications and marketing, so it will be difficult to gauge just how much they are costing the sector. However, there are undoubtedly costs which are associated with diversity – whether they are compulsory from a legislative or regulatory standards point of view, or optional in terms of added value which organisations think such activities might bring. There will also be clear costs associated with staff, managers, consultants and training.
In the Rise of the Equalities Industry, Professor Saunders highlights that the associated costs of equalities monitoring alone amount each year to an estimated:
- £150 million in the service sector
- £35 million in manufacturing
- £25 million in construction
- £210 million across small and medium-sized businesses &
- Between £300 million and £400 million across the whole private sector
In hard times, tough choices have to be made. The recent 2011 British Social Attitudes Survey shows a marked change in social attitudes over recent years which are not necessarily linked to the current economic times, with a distinct hardening of social attitudes towards ‘fairness’ in society backed up by research carried out earlier this year by Policy Exchange. It found there was high support for a fair society, but as Neil O Brien, Policy Exchange director said recently, ‘The majority of people think that fairness is mainly a question of people getting what they deserve, rather than being about equal treatment. In other words, people’s ideas of fairness are strongly reciprocal – something for something’,
At a time when key welfare reforms are imminent and will be not just be affecting housing organisation’s income, but also their customers pockets through reduced entitlements and limits on the amount of Housing Benefit payable for ‘underoccupiers’, is it not time to review the value for money of diversity activities in the same way that other ‘core’ areas of business’ have been, for example through lean reviews, Social Return on Investment or Cost/benefit analyses?