Social Housing Equality Framework

The Social Housing Equality Framework (SHEF) aims to help organisations integrate their commitments to promote equality and diversity into their day-to-day work.

The SHEF can be used by arms' length management organisations (ALMOs), local authority housing departments, housing associations and private landlords who have become social housing providers.


The SHEF comprises five performance areas:

  • Knowing your customers
  • Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment
  • Involving your customers
  • Responsive services, access and customer care
  • A skilled and committed workforce.

In addition, it has three levels of achievement:

Understanding equality

The Equality Act 2010 consolidated and enhanced the previous legislation, in particular the general public sector duty to promote equality. The equality duty requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations in the course of developing policies and delivering services. The aim is for public bodies to consider the needs of all individuals in their day-to-day work, in developing policy, in delivering services and in relation to their own employees.

Social housing providers themselves will need to find ways to ensure that mainstreaming their work to promote equality and diversity remains a priority, for example, in the standards they set themselves in conjunction with their residents.

The five performance areas of the Social Housing Equality Framework are:

Knowing your customers
Social housing providers need to meet the needs of a diverse range of communities and individuals. The social and economic composition of areas varies greatly and changes over time. Providers therefore need to have a strong understanding of their local area in order to design services that both meet current needs and are sufficiently flexible to respond to changing circumstances.

The more comprehensive and up-to-date information a housing provider has about the protected characteristics of its residents, their communication and other relevant needs, the better its services should be.

Knowing your customers includes three elements within the framework. These are:

  • Collecting information
  • Analysing and using information and
  • Sharing information between partners.


 – (PDF, 2 pages, 294KB)

Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment
Clear leadership is key to establishing a strong vision for equality and improving equality outcomes. Board members, councillors, chief executives and senior managers have particular roles to play in ensuring that there is a strong vision and public commitment to equality across public services, that equality issues are integral to public service planning and delivery and that people are treated with dignity and respect. This role has become even more important as external regulatory pressures have been significantly reduced.

Please note that we have used the terms 'board' and 'board members' in the SHEF for the sake of brevity. The terms should also be taken to mean 'committee', 'councillor' and 'cabinet member' where appropriate.

Leadership, partnership and organisational commitment has 10 elements:

  • Leadership, vision and commitment
  • Mainstreaming equality
  • Equality analysis
  • Equality objectives and legal duties
  • Monitoring and scrutiny
  • Communicating and promoting commitments
  • Contract monitoring, procurement and commissioning
  • Promotion of equality and participation
  • Leading by example and
  • Good practice and benchmarking.


 – (PDF, 4 pages, 156KB)

Involving your customers
Social housing providers have long recognised the importance of community engagement and participation and involving customers. Many have moved far beyond simple consultation exercises to find innovative ways of involving communities and neighbourhoods, often working in partnership with other organisations. Empowering service users to shape services to meet their own needs where possible is an important aspect of the localism agenda, co-regulation and the personalisation of services.

Involving your customers has four elements:

  • Community engagement structures
  • Effective engagement
  • Fostering good relations and
  • Community development.


 – (PDF, 2 pages, 232KB)

Responsive services, access and customer care
Users of a housing provider's services should be treated with dignity and respect. Tackling harassment, hate crime and domestic abuse, ensuring services are easily accessible and being mindful of Human Rights considerations lie at the heart of such treatment.

Responsive services, access and customer care has five elements:

  • Tackling harassment and domestic abuse
  • Providing accessible services
  • Take-up of services
  • Assessing satisfaction, and
  • Human Rights.


 – (PDF, 3 pages, 143KB)

A skilled and committed workforce
As part of their work to promote equality and diversity, social housing providers need to ensure that they reflect their equality aspirations in their role as an employer as well as in their role as a service provider. This means that not only should all their human resources (HR) policies and procedures reflect good practice in equality and diversity, but also that anyone who applies to the organisation or who works for it feels confident that they will be treated fairly.

A skilled and committed workforce has 10 elements:

  • Workforce planning
  • A more representative workforce
  • Workforce monitoring
  • Equality analysis of human resources (HR) policies and procedures
  • Staff engagement
  • Promoting a positive working environment
  • Equal pay review and occupational segregation
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Appraisal and performance review
  • Learning and development.


 – (PDF, 3 pages, 152KB)

Useful references

For more on the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, see