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When it comes to the speak up/listen up culture, housing associations could be, and should be, doing more to stop corporate wrongdoing, a whistleblowing charity has said.
Protect believes housing sector HR departments and board members could be better skilled in the area of workplace whistleblowing, and have asked how many members would know what to do if a whistleblower approached them with a serious concern - and how many provide whistleblowing training and awareness to staff to encourage them to raise workplace wrongdoing.
Whistleblowing, sometimes called speaking up or raising a concern, is vital to keeping public safe from harm and every organisation should take it very seriously, Protect says, adding that the practice ensures if someone sees something wrong in the workplace, they are able to raise it.
Protect was set up in 1993 following a series of major disasters and scandals, such as the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise, the Clapham rail crash, and the collapse of BCCI bank over mass money laundering. These events led to exhaustive public inquiries that revealed staff had been aware of dangers but felt they couldn’t raise the matter internally, believing it wasn’t right, safe or acceptable to challenge malpractice, risk or misconduct in their workplace.
The charity runs an advice line for whistleblowers seeking help about what to do if they have seen workplace wrongdoing, such as fraud, malpractice or a safety issue putting staff or tenants at risk.
Protect chief executive Francesca West said: “The housing sector is facing greater scrutiny in health and safety and compliance, particularly since the Grenfell tragedy. We know there are still cladding issues, but there are probably many more safety issues we are simply not aware of.
“We would like to see far more HR and board members in the housing sector equip themselves with better whistleblowing skills to improve workplace governance. Whistleblowing ultimately protects customers, residents, staff, beneficiaries, and the organisation itself by identifying harm before it’s too late.”
According to the charity, the benefits of a healthy whistleblowing culture include:
- Identifying risk early, allowing the organisation to act
- Improving tenant safety
- Process improvement having identified risk
- Adjusting or realigning behaviours
- Identifying further training or communications needed
- Acting as a deterrent to further wrongdoing
- Demonstrating the organisation is transparent and accountable.