Talking Together

Executive Summary

Review of Communication Access for Saffron Housing Trust

Saffron Housing Trust wanted a review of the quality of its communication access because it knew from concerns raised that there were problems and that it was likely in breach of The Equality Act 2010 in its provision of reasonable accommodations.

A review of documents, databases, and online interviews with three Saffron residents, a pair of carers for a Saffron resident (with significant learning disabilities) and one member of staff with a range of communication access needs identified areas of concern and possible solutions.

Primary recommendation: Create a database of accommodation needs.

Currently there is no central database of accommodation needs, with appropriate GDPR permissions, which all teams have access to, which links into all the services that Saffron provide. The current database of access requirements is incomplete, inaccurate, and rarely used by staff. Access requirement information is not automatically passed along to third-party contractors.

The current system sets up staff to fail to accommodate residents needs and leads to inconsistent accommodations being provided. Saffron needs to create a centralised access needs database. The data for this should be gathered from an annual online survey of residents access accommodation requirements, as well as an online system that can allow staff and residents to input access needs at anytime as they become apparent. The information provided should focus on the accommodations needed by residents (for all types of protected characteristics), whose results can be directly imported into central database.

Secondary recommendations.

  1. Improve complaints protocols and practices.

Full and consistent implementation of Saffron’s Complaints and Compliments policy. In particular better tracking of complaints with automatic escalation if not resolved within a reasonable period of time.

  1. Improve in-person appointment protocols and practices.

Saffron’s Repairs and Maintenance Policy should be expanded to include standard templates for appointment letters to enhance the clarity of communications. It should also include “failure to notify” and “failure to attend” policies which if not adhered to may led to payments to residents and will impact on staff’s promotion prospects and third-party contractors payments.

  1. Improve provision and quality of communication accommodations.

Much of this will be addressed by the creation of the access database. Additionally communications should fail safe i.e., usual practice is accessible practice e.g. all letters posted should also be sent by email. Residents with more complex needs should be assigned a key contact person. Create an online list of communication access accommodations that are available on request from Saffron.

  1. Improve provision and quality of other access accommodations.

Saffron should adopt the Social Landlord Disability Charter Scheme (SHAC 2021). Saffron should create a set of detailed access guidelines. These should mostly bring together existing guidelines, but target Saffron’s needs specifically.

  1. Improve provision and quality of information shared with residents and public (web page and online documents).

Access information needs to be easily found on the web site; create an accessible resources and information page with documents and links. This should include detailed access information, pictures, and videos of Saffron housing and community resources (halls, gardens) and their access provisions.

  1. Improve quality of written communications (letters and emails).

Stop using the email encryption system; it is mostly acting as a barrier to communications. Most emails are sending information that is not confidential or sensitive. Confidential information should be made available via secure online pages. 

Provide specific email addresses for staff roles or teams e.g. housing officer, or maintenance team, for a given area. All letters requiring action by residents should include a “Key information” box where bullet points of the key times/ dates/ actions needed are listed.

  1. Improve quality of verbal communications (telephone and video calls).

Training of staff and third-part contractors should undergo the free online Communication Access Training program.


Current poor access accommodations practice represents a substantial cost to Saffron. These include the financial cost of staff have to deal with the anger and complaints of residents provided with inaccessible services. There is reputational cost as residents lose faith in Saffron being able to respond appropriately to their needs. Saffron is currently in breach of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010. Additionally, there is a high risk of a safeguarding incident occurring with residents with reduced capacity, or limited communication skills, as staff will not have the information needed to meet their needs appropriately.

This breach of trust in the quality of services provided by Saffron is already clear. I received a number of emails from residents stating they did not wish to participate in the project as they had no trust in Saffron to enact its findings. But residents did believe in the value of a social housing trust and its worth to the community.

“I want them to win awards.” (Resident)

A call to action.

It was clear from multiple discussions with staff and residents that access accommodations must be improved in order for Saffron to provide an effective and safe service. The level of failure at present is unacceptable. Staff often wish to provide a better service but are stymied by current systems. Rapid implementation of the recommendations is required to rebuild the trust that has been breached too often by Saffron’s words not matching their actions.