Black’s Blog: Stories against discrimination

Black’s Blog: Stories against discrimination

The latest guests on the Scottish Housing News Podcast are gathering stories about the way Scotland’s housing services handle people with protected characteristics. Podcast co-host Jimmy Black says “we only have laws against discrimination because some people do it”. Read on …

We know the Metropolitan Police struggles with institutional racism; the Macpherson Report told us so and still it goes on. Now we know about misogyny and racism amongst firefighters in London, as described in the newly published independent report by Nazir Afzal.

Sometimes the people who are there to help us, and stand up for us, let us down. So we need to be vigilant about the services we provide in Scotland to people who are vulnerable through poverty and homelessness.

What do we know about the way our homeless services deal with people who are black, old, transgender or belong to any of the nine groups protected against discrimination by legislation? The answer is… not enough. How much do people with protected characteristics trust the services on which they depend in times of crisis? We don’t really know.

I’m not making any allegations here. I have no evidence on which to make allegations. But we only have laws against discrimination because some people do it. That in turn means that we should be aware of the possibility that some of our services provide inadequate help to some protected groups. Some staff may wittingly or unwittingly fail to meet the needs of the people they serve.

We don’t have all the data required to identify areas where problems exist, and inform improvements in practice. For example, the equalities statement in the Scottish Government document ‘Housing to 2040’ acknowledges that “only limited evidence is available on the Gender Reassignment Protected Characteristic”.

Could that mean that some transgender homeless applicants will not reveal the violence that has driven them from their family home? Is there a risk that transgender people may be rehoused inappropriately in a hostel where they may be at risk of violence from other residents?

The guests on the latest episode of our SHN podcast are Pedro Cameron of Housing Options Scotland and Dr Gareth Young of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE).

They have taken the initiative to interview people with professional knowledge and others with lived experience of housing services in Scotland, and publish the results in the form of podcasts. It’s a different kind of research. The aim is not to produce weighty reports, but to tell stories which will help housing services gain insights, assess what they do and redesign accordingly.

You can hear them describe what they do and why to Kieran Findlay and myself on the SHN podcast. Find it here …

All episodes of the Scottish Housing News Podcast are available here as well as on the following platforms:

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