UK Government

Communities and Local Government: Denham - Government is committed to tackling inequality and disadvantage wherever it exists

Press Release   •   Jan 15, 2010 10:52 GMT

Communities Secretary John Denham today re-affirmed the Governments steadfast commitment to tackling race inequality and set out plans to build on the significant achievements by pledging to tackle inequality wherever it exists.

John Denham has today published Tackling Race Inequality: A Statement on Race. This document details the consistent progress that has been made to tackle racism and secure race equality in recent years, highlights the remaining challenges and the need to broaden the focus of equalities work to respond to new and emerging issues.

Over the past decade, the Government has worked tirelessly to build a fairer, more equal society.  A society where a person’s chances and opportunities in life are determined solely by their talent and effort – not by their class, gender, religion, sexuality or their race.

The Macpherson Report in 1999 was a wake-up call for all public services. The Race Relations Amendment Act that followed in 2000 extended the laws against discrimination meaning that over 43,000 public bodies were charged with promoting race equality. This has led to a more representative police force and a halving of racially motivated incidents since 1995. In addition, in schools, there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of pupils of black Caribbean heritage gaining five good GCSEs.

These measures have transformed the way public services serve BME communities, no longer simply passively addressing individual racist incidents but actively promoting racial equality and better race relations.

Across Government, efforts to raise incomes, reduce poverty and promote inequality – whether through the minimum wage, Sure Start or housing – has made a real difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged, including those from BME communities.

However, there is still much to do.  There are still areas of concern, especially in school exclusions and stop and search. Alongside these old challenges there are new and emerging trends affecting White and BME people There is a growing Black and Asian middle class – they are now coming up against the old problems in new settings. Research shows that people whose surname suggests they are from a BME background find it harder to get an interview when applying for a job. In education we know that Chinese and Indian students in particular do better than the average in schools whilst White working class boys appear to be lagging behind.

Migration, the growing importance of community cohesion, and a better understanding of the way in which race interacts with class and other factors have all changed the terms of the debate and made promoting race equality a much more complex challenge.

Tackling racism will only be effectively achieved if all forms of discrimination, prejudice and inequality are tackled.

Mr Denham today pledged to redouble efforts to promote greater equality for all, and combine that with action to target the specific problems faced by particular groups. He stressed the need to do this in ways which are fair, seen to be fair, and in a way that will ensure no group is neglected or overlooked

The new document details how Government will build on the remarkable achievements of the past ten years setting out a threefold approach to tackling what is now a more complex challenge:

Enforcing the strong legal framework – The new Equality Bill will modernise, streamline and strengthen the existing legislative framework, helping people to understand their rights and further reduce inequality and discrimination.

The Bill acknowledges the wider context in which race inequality must now be tackled. Instead of addressing the needs of different groups separately, it will require all public services to offer a decent service to everyone - regardless. And it will mean more of a focus on outcomes - not processes. For the first time, public bodies will have to take class into account and consider what action they can take to tackle entrenched socio-economic disadvantage.

Leadership – Communities and Local Government will work with those charged with inspecting public bodies to make sure that services are complying with their duties and obligations. CLG will continue to challenge other Government Departments and public bodies to promote race equality in everything they do.

Targeted work – where certain groups face specific challenges targeted work is needed in response. The REACH role modelling programme is addressing low achievement and low aspirations amongst young black boys, works is going on in schools to improve poor white boys progress and help particular groups overcome specific challenges, where needed.

John Denham said:

“The Government has an absolute commitment to eradicating racism and promoting race equality.  And that work will not stop until every single person in this country has the same opportunities and an equal chance of success.

“Sustained action over the last ten years has promoted racial equality and better race relations, dismantled unfair barriers faced by many and helped to nurture a society more comfortable with diversity than ever before.

“New trends are emerging linked to the way that race and class together shape people’s lives and this makes the situation much more complex. That does not mean that we should reduce our efforts to tackle racism and promote race equality but we must avoid a one dimensional debate that assumes all minority ethnic people are disadvantaged. The landscape has changed and we have to make sure that our efforts are tackling problems of today and not those of the past.

“We are committed to tackling inequality and disadvantage wherever it exists. If the cause is racism and discrimination we will challenge racism and discrimination. If the cause of disadvantage is social class, we will promote opportunity. And if the cause is a combination of racism and social class we will tackle both together.

“We are working towards building a society where regardless of class, race, beliefs or anything else: in every community, in every corner of the country – we are on people’s side. No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness.”

Tackling Race Inequality: A Statement on Race details a wide range of measures that Government has and will put in place to deliver on this crucial agenda. This includes:

• Communities and Local Government will support the Equality and Human Rights Commission as it develops guidance on implementing the Equality Bill and intervenes in legal cases which will advance equality.
• Through effective inspection of public services public bodies will be held to greater account on delivering against their responsibilities. Progress has already been made on this area with Ofsted now rating schools as inadequate if they do not fulfil requirements on equality.
• The DCSF now has rules requiring Local Authorities to set targets to raise attainment amongst underperforming groups.
• The Government Equalities Office has today launched a new ambassadors network -180 individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds who currently hold a range of public appointments, such as membership of NHS trusts and boards of public bodies, who will be encouraging people from under-represented groups to consider applying for public appointments.
• Earlier this year the CLG made £8.8m available through the Tackling Race Inequality Fund (TRIF). This funding is supporting 27 national and regional Third Sector Organisations to tackle inequalities faced by a range of minority ethnic groups. Organisations funded include Operation Black Vote, Age UK, The National Black Boys Can Association and Show Racism the Red Card

Notes to editors

This press notice applies to England Only

1. Tackling Race Inequality: A Statement on Race can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/tacklingraceinequalitystatement

2. The Race Relations Amendment Act followed the publication of the Macpherson Report and was seen to be a watershed moment. It not only extended the laws against discrimination, but also charged over 43,000 public bodies with positively promoting race equality and better race relations. It has meant a sea-change in the way that public services work. It has introduced a proactive approach to meeting the needs of all communities, to understanding how different communities are affected by different policies and put in place measures which can prevent adverse impacts and promote equality and to monitor outcomes.

3. Changes within the police force have, perhaps, been the most striking. Macpherson found a service which was overwhelmingly white, lacking in cultural awareness and sensitivity, and did not take racist incidents seriously. To raise awareness of the issues and ensure the police are properly serving minority communities, Government set targets for representation, recruitment and progression for minority ethnic officers, changing the way that police officers are trained, how racist incidents are defined and making the recording of Stop and Search more transparent. As a result, the number of police officers from minority ethnic backgrounds has doubled. The number of racially motivated incidents estimated from the British Crime Survey has more than halved since 1995. There are hundreds of specialist hate crime officers working in the Met Police and detection rates for hate crime have doubled.

4. In schools, Government's major worry was the considerable gap between pupils of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, African and Caribbean heritage and their white peers. Government required all schools to have a race equality programme, focused resources and efforts on raising attainment through projects like the Aiming High Strategy and the Black Pupils Achievement Strategy. The results are paying off, with the number of pupils of black Caribbean heritage getting five good GCSEs increasing by more than twenty percentage points. The gap between pupils of Bangladeshi heritage and their peers has been virtually eliminated. Government is now building on this, by enabling councils to set targets for different groups' attainment.

5. In employment, ten years ago, the concern was both the disparity in employment rates - and the fact that the gap had stuck at around 19 per cent for around a decade. A review from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit concentrated attention on the issues and led to the setting up of the Ethnic Minority Task Force. Government has championed the business case for equality, stressing the benefits and importance of a diverse workforce which reflects society. Government has also set up projects such as Ethnic Minority Outreach which helps thousands of people to prepare for work and find jobs.

6. Communities and Local Government has established a national Black role modelling programme. This was one of the recommendations made by the REACH group in their report An Independent Report to Government on Raising the Aspirations and Attainment of Black Boys and Young Black Men which can be viewed at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/reachreport. The REACH group was set up by Government in 2006 and had 22 members drawn from a variety of sectors, including the voluntary and community sector, education academia and law enforcement.

7. Communities and Local Government will also hold two feedback conferences in the early Spring 2010 to update people who fed into the consultation on how we have responded.

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