This guest blog is by Alba Kapoor, Senior Policy Manager at the Runnymede Trust. In this piece, Alba discusses the government’s Inclusive Britain report on inequality in the UK, the government’s wider legislative agenda, and how charities and social impact organisations must scrutinise these proposals.
The government’s decision to release its Inclusive Britain plan came two days after the details of Child Q’s case were released. News of a young Black girl being strip-searched, on her period, by a police officer called into her school, rocked the country. It showed the deep-rooted nature of embedded racism in our society, leading to the grotesque violation of a child. It showed once again the urgent need for transformational change to end systemic racism in Britain.
The Inclusive Britain plan comes two years after the tragic murder of George Floyd. It comes two years after the beginning of the pandemic, which exposed how racial disparities are an issue of life and death. It also comes in the midst of a legislative agenda that the Runnymede Trust believes poses the most significant and sustained threat to the rights of Black and ethnic minority communities in recent memory—including the proposed overhaul of the Human Rights Act.
But the 70 actions proposed by the government in the report will do little to undo the extent of racial disparities in Britain. Instead, its proposals are often vague, lack clear targets and some will have a negative impact on Black and ethnic minority people. Charities and funders must properly scrutinise these proposals and recognise that they go nowhere near far enough to address the scale of racial injustices across employment, health, criminal justice, education and housing.
Whilst some of the plan’s proposals may sound like a step in the right direction, such as the introduction of action to tackle disproportionate maternity deaths or steps to reduce the ethnicity pay gap in the workplace, they lack real substance. Action on the ethnicity pay gap is voluntary, and therefore toothless, and a recommendation on reducing disparities on maternity deaths lacks a target. Instead, the plan offers a vague commitment to ‘consider and support evidence-based interventions to address the current disparities in outcomes through the Maternity Disparities Taskforce.’
On criminal justice, the government has fallen far behind the transformational change that is needed—instead promoting some actions to entrench racial disparities. Proposals to address discrimination in stop and search, which the plan itself acknowledges as a ‘hostile experience’ for Black and ethnic minority young people, are accompanied by the introduction of a new ‘Serious Violence Reduction Duty’. This duty will force public bodies, including youth services and educators, to pass over information to the police pertaining to any people deemed at risk of involvement in serious violence. Like the gangs matrix before it, the duty is likely to play to prejudices towards young Black men in particular. It will have a discriminatory impact on the same young people affected by discrimination in the outcomes of stop and search.
On top of this, key disparities in the criminal justice system are overlooked. For example, the government offers no mention of disproportionalities in taser usage or meaningful action on deaths and use of force in police custody for Black and ethnic minority communities. Nearly three quarters of 1,009 children tasered by the Metropolitan Police in just 10 months between January and October 2019 were from a Black and ethnic minority background. Perhaps most alarmingly in the aftermath of the Child Q case, is the planned introduction of ‘Mini Police’ in schools which is included amongst the actions in the plan. These ‘Mini Police’ are part of plans to ‘build trust in communities’ by ensuring that ‘the police engage with young people at an early age’.
The role of charities and social impact organisations
It is incumbent on charities and social impact organisations to properly scrutinise what little the government is offering to improve outcomes for Black and ethnic minority groups. The government frames the plan as part of their ‘levelling up’ agenda, but let’s not forget how left behind ethnic minorities have been in the process of ‘levelling up’ so far. According to NPC’s own research from January 2022, the 10% of local authorities with the highest concentrations of Black, African and Caribbean communities were being allocated less ‘levelling up’ funding than the 10% of local authorities with the lowest concentrations.
We must also question whether scrapping the government’s own upcoming legislation might do more for Black and ethnic minority groups than many parts of this plan put together. This includes the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the proposed overhaul of the Human Rights Act and its new draconian immigration plans. This raft of legislation will set ethnic minority people back from exercising their rights and, at worst, it will further entrench already discriminatory practices and policies.
The introduction of this plan started with the release of the deeply discredited Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which diminished the realities of institutional racism in Britain. In the face of evidence about the glaring extent of racial disparities, the government is still refusing to engage with what is really happening. As a cost of living crisis bites, and Black and ethnic minority families are amongst those bearing the brunt, meaningful action is desperately needed from the government—and it is up to the third sector to tell them.