Race Equality Matters is pleased to announce that the Great Places have been awarded Bronze Trailblazer status!

Great Places Housing Group seeks to improve the lives of the people by providing rented accommodation and tenancy services to promote wellbeing and independence. They provide over 25,000 homes across the North West and Yorkshire.  Great Places has provided a very thorough and genuine application, panellists felt a lot of work and monitoring has been done to truly tackle race inequality in a variety of ways. Great Places have shown a commitment to data, and targeted actions as well as ensuring room for inclusivity and growth in awareness and understanding.

Panellists welcomed their push to increase representation at Senior levels and the buy-in and endorsement from the CEO was welcomed as well as the willingness to face anti-racism head on supporting those colleagues who have suffered racism. Panellists felt Great Places have demonstrated a good example of creating spaces where important conversations can take place and voices can be truly heard. Panellists also commended the use of their marketing and comms to deliver educational and engaging content to their colleagues highlighted through the use of Podcasts and their newsletters.

100% of judging panellists voted that their application had demonstrated evidence of action and 83.3.5% voted for the Great Places to receive the status.


Actions and Initiatives


Race and Religion Network and the Everyone Counts Forum


Great Places have an active race network called Race and Religion Counts, which is a part of their Everyone Counts Forum. Everyone Counts acts as an umbrella network for all their diversity networks, bringing together members from each of the individual networks quarterly to share learnings and opportunities where they can focus on intersectionality.

The Race and Religion Counts network is sponsored by their Director of Assurance and guided by a senior EDI specialist and inclusion and belonging graduate rather than a single chair, the network has a ‘Sofa Structure’ providing shared leadership, with a Lead who is accountable for ensuring clear actions are agreed. The network has also been crucial in the development of a new EDI strategy including supporting the launch of this with real stories to help reinforce the value of the strategy and provide context to the key action areas. Panellists have commended the activity and the inclusivity that has led to open conversations and the exploration of intersectionality. The Network have also promoted and facilitated webinars & discussions across the business which raise awareness around race & religion and inform wider action areas on topics including Anti-Racism, Allyship Ethnically diverse heroes and figure heads. The forum used surveys to investigate colleague experience, cultural inclusion and customer inclusion which has been very influential


Utilising Data and Feedback


Feedback from surveys, the Everyone Counts Forum and consultation of the Network have led to a variety of actions such as the ‘’Zero Tolerance” approach to Customer & Colleague Abuse, a commitment to SHARP, leading the sub-group for accreditation (The Social Housing Anti-Racism Pledge) Also helped support the BAME leadership program (BOOST) and the reporting of their ethnicity Pay Gap.

In terms of the individual activities and initiatives also Great Places gather feedback from colleagues o and use this to prompt learning and discussion within network meetings. Each network provides an update to the Everyone Counts forum on a quarterly basis, and to their colleague consultation group ‘One Voice’ bi-monthly, which is chaired by their CEO. They have delivered inclusive leadership training and have had a range of guest speakers help to challenge SLT effectively to ensure they are open and receptive to feedback.

Since reporting the ethnicity pay gap Great Places, they have taken a series of actions which include  creating organisational alignment of salaries for similar roles to ensure like-for-like roles are paid fairly, introducing greater pay alignment for colleagues identified as being below the average paid salary for their role during a mid-year pay review process and the introduction of spot salaries for some roles to create full alignment of pay where appropriate.


Engaging Senior Leadership


Great Places leadership team, currently does not include ethnically diverse members which, is a key area they are currently working towards changing.  However due to this, encouraging endorsement proved challenging in terms of encouraging senior sponsorship and ensuring that colleagues at this level were able to understand the challenges faced and experiences of colleagues of colour. This was overcome by bringing the colleagues with lived experience into the Director and Exec space so that they could hear from them directly, to explore issues and establish informed solutions.

This open space for communication gave leaders clearer insight, prompted the appointment of a senior sponsor, resulted in reciprocal mentoring relationships and gave greater empowerment and support to the network in terms of buy in particularly for the delivery of the action plan. It also resulted in the Chair of the Board recognising the Race and Religion Counts network with a Chairs Commendation at their annual colleague awards celebration.


Impact and Ethnically diverse Staff Endorsement 


  • Colleagues have joined forum meetings, fed back through targeted and org wide surveys and space to talk (safe space) sessions. Network membership has doubled in the last 6 months as a result of the action taken and the number of colleagues supporting as allies has also significantly increased.
  • They have also seen an increase in the % of Apprentices and Graduates joining the company from Ethnic Diverse communities, with 64% of our last cohort recognising themselves as not being of white heritage.
  • With the CEO and leadership team demonstrating vulnerable, real and brave conversations themselves, they have helped to reinforce a culture of trust and safety.
  • The colleague survey was analysed by ethnicity and the results showed colleagues from diverse heritages were now more satisfied with Great Places as an employer than their white colleague scores.
  • In just a week, more than 120 colleagues updated their details on Cascade, and for the first-time colleagues were also invited to share what languages they speak. Great Places have colleagues who can speak Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Spanish, German, Polish, French and Afrikaans to name just a few. Using this new information they reached out to colleagues who could speak other languages to help provide additional support when connecting with customers who have limited English and prefer communicating with them in their own first language.
  • Progress is monitored through a new EDI reporting tool which will be added to their HR dashboard, this includes recruitment and progression information by ethnicity, annual pay gap reporting, and the updates on development activity and involvement in learning initiatives.
  • In the satisfaction survey above they have seen 94% of ethnically diverse colleagues believe that they promote an inclusive environment where they are able to be themselves, whilst 96% are satisfied with Great Places as an employer
  • Testimony from a Muslim Colleague

““I was worried about what it would be like working here, I’ve had bad experiences before, people making jokes about my culture or commenting about my Hijab or conservative dress code or putting pressure on me to go for after work drinks. But I’ve been so relieved. Lots of colleague’s dress like me so its not different here, and I’ve been made to feel so welcome, we even had a team lunch where everyone was asked to bring their favourite cold meal or snacks to share and mine went first, people loved the food and made me feel part of the team so quickly. I don’t need to try to fit in, I just do.



Feedback from an Ethnically Diverse Panel


Panellists praised the use of Surveys, Podcasts videos and testimonies to communicate ideas and support change. Panellists felt the data within the application was impressive and further supports the sentiments voiced by ethnically diverse employees, showcasing a commitment to addressing issues such as the ethnicity pay gap. Panellists also felt the emphasis on networks and leadership programs was commendable, with the Race and Religion Network notably focusing not only on race but also on the intersectionality of religion. Initiatives across various areas demonstrate a proactive stance, supported by compelling statistics which indicate increased engagement. Panellists recognised that feedback from those who are ethnically diverse may be limited while the organisation work on improving their representation however they felt positive that as Great Places continue their momentum, they have the capacity to achieve their goals and create even more impact both internally and externally.


Next steps…


Looking to the future, Great Places to (among other actions:

  • They have a 5-year vision, 3-year EDI strategy and 12-month network action plan to support this, which will be reviewed and relaunched annually to keep it relevant and at the forefront of their actions
  • They will look to increase representation by ensuring all applicants from ethnically diverse backgrounds are guaranteed an interview if they meet the minimum criteria of the role applied for
  • They will ensure diverse recruitment panels are introduced for leadership and management roles
  • They will also focus on their communications, making sure the imagery and language used within their advertisements are inclusive and attractive to those who are ethnically diverse
  • We will increase the support provided to colleagues from ethnically diverse backgrounds
  • Introducing a tailored leadership development programme to support colleagues from ethnically diverse communities who are aspiring to progress into management or leadership roles
  • Ensure participation and learning from the GMHP Boost programme, through providing reciprocal mentoring and engagement as an active member of the Cultural Change Champions
  • Support the achievement of SHARP and the Race Equality Trailblazer awards.
  • Lead on our Anti-racism campaign for customers and colleagues.
  • Embed the adoption of the ‘My name is’ and ‘Tea Break’ campaigns.


Follow Great Places Lead: Become a Trailblazer


If your organisation is driving change for Race Equality and you can demonstrate impact, endorsement from ethnic background employees and share future plans; register your interest for the next round of trailblazers.


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