Data Ethics:

The Housing Partners stance

We’re continuing with our series on data ethics and in this week’s article we’re putting ourselves under the microscope.

We’ll be taking a look at what data policy means at Housing Partners, as well as how this has altered in the face of GDPR, what the future holds for the housing sector and tech, and how data should be treated as technology evolves.

We spoke with our Compliance Manager, Jason Fudge, who gave us his insights on all things data and GDPR…

We’re continuing with our series on data ethics and in this week’s article we’re putting ourselves under the microscope. We’ll be taking a look at what data policy means at Housing Partners, as well as how this has altered in the face of GDPR, what the future holds for the housing sector and tech, and how data should be treated as technology evolves.

We spoke with our Compliance Manager, Jason Fudge, who gave us his insights on all things data and GDPR…

Jason Fudge, Compliance Manager, Housing Partners

Starting simple: What is Housing Partners’ data policy? Is it one that is reactive and about compliance? Or, is there a particular ethos that functions as a leading doctrine? 

I would say that Housing Partners’ data policy is aligned to its core values of ‘doing the right thing’ – of course what the ‘right thing’ is, is itself open to interpretation. However, with respect to our data policy, I would define ‘doing the right thing’ as complying with the law in both letter and spirit and looking after data as if it were our own. If we ask ourselves the question, ‘would I be happy if Housing Partners was managing my own personal data?’ and answer without hesitation, ‘Yes’, then in my eyes we are doing the right thing.

Housing Partners’ longstanding commitment to the ISO 27001:2013 standard (we’ve been accredited with the 27001 standard since 2011) means that we proactively manage the security of the data that we hold in our custody.

Its documented policies set the standard that is expected within the business and its internal culture that has been nurtured over several years, mean that staff will actively report instances where policies are not followed and this in turn, enables Housing Partners to continually improve.

This culture of continuous improvement extends to the external audits that BSI conduct when assessing our compliance with the ISO27001:2013 standard. Rather than viewing these audits as a negative set of tests, they are viewed as an opportunity to improve and learn from experienced auditors.

Following GDPR, what were the changes that particularly affected Housing Partners? What impact have you seen since?

In the run up to the ‘go live’ date of GDPR, there was a real rush to get customer-facing documentation, such as privacy policies and data sharing agreements updated – and the headline figures regarding potential fines did focus the mind! However, once the furore of ‘go live’ had passed, it was evident that the work that had been undertaken to gain and maintain our ISO27001 certification had put Housing Partners in a very good place, as the ISO standard overlaps heavily with the GDPR.

We’ve seen our customers become more aware of their data protection responsibilities and they do seek assurances that any software solutions that they look to procure will not compromise the data they entrust to a software supplier – our ISO certification provides such reassurance to many of these prospective customers.

In your opinion what does the future look like in the housing sector? How can companies like Housing Partners utilise Housing Association and Local Authority data to bring about change? Why is Housing Partners particularly placed to bring about those changes?

Housing Partners’ solutions can help Local Authorities and Housing Associations to harness their data to help them to better understand the needs and situation of their tenants. New legislation will only increase the demands placed upon housing providers; using data to drive insight will help these organisations to work smarter with the resources that they have, for example by becoming more proactive in their approach to managing tenants.

Housing Associations and Local Authorities possess lots of data across many systems and platforms – Housing Partners’ expertise and solutions help to integrate data to maximise the potential for driving value from it.

What trends in tech and data management do you think are going to most influence the housing sector in the next ten years?

Organisations that hold large volumes of data will move increasingly towards Cloud-based solutions. The housing sector will increasingly recognise the potential value of the data that they hold to make more informed decisions about their tenants and stock, and will look to invest in solutions that can hep to extract the value locked away in their data. Use of data can help Local Authorities and Housing Associations to focus on the tenants that need help the most, meaning resources are allocated in a more efficient manner.

The increasing use of data may throw up some moral challenges that legislators will need to address, for example – if social housing providers are performing financial checks on prospective tenants and these tenants cannot afford even the cheapest accommodation on offer, the very people that need social housing will be denied the help that social housing is intended to provide…what happens next?

A quick guide to the terms

GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation is a regulation in EU law regulating how companies protect EU citizens’ personal data

ISO: The International Organization for Standardization. They develop and publish International Standards

ISO27001: An information security standard, it helps organisations keep information secure

BSI: The British Standards Institution is the national standards body of the UK. They produce technical standards on a wide range of products and services, and also supply certification and standards-related services to businesses

Cloud-based solutions: On-demand services, computer networks, storage, applications or resources accessed via the internet

Housing Partners

Housing Partners is one of the leading providers of data and IT solutions to the landlord and local authority sector, with products and services spanning homelessness to home exchange. With hundreds of clients providing housing and housing services and tens of thousands of tenants using their HomeSwapper service, Housing Partners has a unique insight into the sector.

Housing Partners build a number of solutions for the social housing sector including TAIM, HomeSwapper and Housing Jigsaw. If you would like to know more about what we do, please drop an email to info@housingpartners.co.uk