Basingstoke MP Maria Miller last week welcomed the news that Sovereign Housing Association has signed up to the Race at Work Charter.
The charter, drawn up by Business in the Community (BITC), includes a public commitment to improving outcomes for BAME employees at work.
Miller joined Sovereign chief executive Mark Washer and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion manager Jerome Williams for a virtual meeting on Friday 6 November to discuss her review into the lived experiences of Basingstoke residents from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Miller launched the local inquiry earlier this year in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.
Earlier this yearm Sovereign developed a race action plan, which commits to supporting BAME employees, including introducing mentoring and a sponsorship programme to develop the talent of junior BAME employees.
There are also workstreams to support Sovereign’s customers.
Jerome Williams said: “We’re delighted to sign up to the Charter – we know how important and valuable action towards race equality is and becoming a signatory is one of our commitments towards meaningful action.
“We know we have work to do before we can say that we’ve achieved our ambitions, but this really does mark a very positive step towards achieving them.”
Miller thanked Washer and Williams for their efforts in tackling issues around race at work, and said after the meeting: “I would like to thank Sovereign for signing this charter – which underlines their commitment to being an inclusive and responsible employer.
“As a major local employer with a new head office in the heart of Basingstoke, I am really pleased they are taking this issue seriously.
“I look forward to working with Sovereign to improve the experience of people in Basingstoke from ethnic minorities at work and in their housing.”
During the meeting, Washer and Miller also discussed the impact of the latest national lockdown on Sovereign’s customers and the challenges that lie ahead.
Maria went on to say: “I am hugely grateful to the work Sovereign has down this year to support their customers and staff in really challenging times.
“As we face this second lockdown and a tough winter ahead, it will be vital that the local council, local housing providers, and other services come together to support local people.”
Speaking from his home, Washer said: “I am grateful to Maria for taking the time share with us her work on tackling racial inequality in Basingstoke.
“At Sovereign we are committed to creating a workforce that reflects society and our communities – we take equality, diversity, and inclusion seriously.
“There is much still to do, but signing the Race at Work Charter is a clear signal of our commitment.”
Responding to questions on the impact of a second lockdown, he said: “I am very proud of the way Sovereign responded to the pandemic, quickly adapting our services to prioritise those customers who needed us most, as well our employees adopting new ways of working so quickly.
“Throughout 2020, we’ve maintained vital services and carried on our development programme.
“This coming winter will be challenging, but we are in a strong position to carry on supporting our customers and our people.”
As one of the country’s largest housing associations with around 140,000 customers and residents, Sovereign manages nearly 60,000 homes and aims to build around 1,900 new homes every year.
Image: (TL) Mark Washer, CEO, Sovereign Housing Association; (TR) Charles Pitt, Corporate Affairs Director, Sovereign Housing Association; (BL) Maria Miller MP; (BR) Jerome Williams, Equality Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Sovereign Housing Association; (Far BR) Juliet Henderson, Parliamentary Assistant
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