Derwent Living champions equality and diversity

The chair of Derwent Living’s board has been honoured by her peers for her hard work in ensuring equality and diversity is at the heart of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

Suzy Brain England, 53, has been named equality and diversity champion for the Derby-based housing provider as part of a commitment to put equality and diversity high on the board’s agenda for 2011.

Chief executive, Peter McCormack, said: “Suzy is the ideal board champion. The leadership she shows is making a real difference to residents and employees alike. We know that everyone has their own personal values, beliefs and needs, and we know that a ‘one size fits all’ approach simply doesn’t work and can lead to exclusion.

“We believe that all our residents should have the same ease of access to our services and that the quality of those services is the same high standard for all. We also aim to ensure that our residents receive the right level of advice, support and benefits to meet their needs and Suzy is the perfect person to drive this forward.”

Suzy is the chair of a number of public and private sector organisations and has been a director for nearly twenty years. She said: “All boards carry the responsibility for ensuring the organisation complies with the latest legal guidance on equality and diversity. I have interviewed a lot of people over the years for jobs as directors and many are unaware of the issues covered by legislation.

“They often think it’s simply a matter of trying to employ a few people from ethnically diverse backgrounds. However, it’s much more than that. Diversity is not just about skin colour. It’s also about religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, age and ethnicity. We need to ensure that the balance of employees in any organisation also mirrors the diversity of the people it serves.

“Our residents come from very diverse backgrounds and we have been aware that we may not have had board level membership that mirrors those we serve. That’s why we have been actively seeking to recruit younger people, women, people from a range of ethnic backgrounds, those with disabilities and non heterosexuals.

“But it’s not just about appropriate diversity at board level. We want to see that reflected in the people employed throughout Derwent Living. We also want to see appropriate diversity in customer groups whom we ask to help us shape policy and services.”

Derwent Living is considering creating more board champions to lead on such matters as customer engagement and stakeholder relations.

Suzy adds: “As chair of the board I am thrilled to be named equality and diversity champion and will work hard to make sure we have fairness at the heart of all that we do and to remind every member of staff that equality is their business too.”