Racial Disparity Audit Sparks Fierce Reaction

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By FATIMA PATEL & GRAHAME ANDERSON

Theresa May’s recent Race Disparity Audit informed us gross levels of racial wealth inequality persist. In a damning verdict, it suggested the UK is in a racially blind and meritocratic state. It also cited Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) individuals face disparities in housing, unemployment numbers, education and health. Critics immediately argued nothing much has changed, calling for more direct action and less auditing. They reinforced the view Mrs May has the power to address cultures of discrimination.

A Foundation Of Hope

The well-respected QED Foundation based in Bradford, helps break down the barriers stopping people with ethnic minority backgrounds from playing an active part in British society. They pulled no punches in demanding immediate measures to end the social injustices suffered by minority communities. Its members made it clear the audit findings should ensure no-one is held back because of his or her race any longer. Members of the group helped organise a consultation event for the Cabinet Office in the city, and its deputy chief executive Adeeba Malik CBE, was on the report’s steering group. This organisation has helped more than 30,000 people from ethnic minority backgrounds progress through its education and training initiatives.  It has invested more than £15m in disadvantaged communities, and has particular expertise in supporting new arrivals, as they settle in to British life and become economically active. It also campaigns and influences politicians, senior decision makers and businesses to create a level playing field for people of all ethnicities. Its main focus is to enable and support mainstream organisations to work more effectively with ethnic minority groups. Its chief executive Dr Mohammed Ali OBE, said: “The statistics on the new Ethnicity Facts and Figures website show just how difficult it is for people from less privileged backgrounds to improve their circumstances in Britain today, but don’t tell us anything new. We have been campaigning to raise awareness of the barriers preventing people from BAME backgrounds from fulfilling their potential since 1990. Every day we work with men and women who face a daily struggle to earn enough money to provide for their families or even find a job, despite often being highly qualified. This is only the latest in a long series of reports highlighting just how stratified British society remains – yet until now there has been little sign policy makers are prepared to do anything about it.”

Union Of Support

The General, Municipal, Boilermakers, and Allied Trades Union, (GMB), has called the audit, ‘hypocritical’. They say while the light shed by the audit is welcome – merely presenting the data is not enough, when the Government has the power to improve the lives of millions of the UK’s BME citizens. “We welcome the light shed by the race audit, showing discrimination is a daily way of life for too many people, but Theresa May’s hypocrisy is astounding,” said GMB Equality Officer Kamaljeet Jandu. “As Prime Minister, she has the power to address cultures of discrimination by restoring spending on public services from education and the NHS to the civil service – as well as fully supporting the Equality and Human Rights Commission.”

Adding To Shared Voices

“Poverty and racism are the main factors, causing inequality in Bradford and what we need here is inward investment,” said Alyas Karmani, Chair of Bradford based Mental Health Charity Sharing Voices. “We have had years and years of austerity, that’s put this city on its knees as well. That’s got nothing to do with BAME communities, the problem here is this – austerity has accentuated racial inequality and the gap between the haves and the have nots. We need real job creation to move us away from a low wage, low skilled economy, and we need that kind of development in the community. The recent Runnymede report identified African, Caribbean and Asian families as having a 20 per cent drop in their standard of living. This equates to a South Asian family losing £12,000 of its income, and then we’re told, what do we need to do?

“On the other side of the coin I meet so many young people here who don’t just have undergraduate degrees, but post graduate degrees and masters, and still not able to earn above the national average wage. So what does that say?  If you are a BAME graduate, you have to try ten times as hard as your one counterpart to get the equivalent job. They have to leave cities like Bradford and go elsewhere, but they don’t want to.”

Stifling The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Kamaljeet Jandu added: “Bradford as a city has an entrepreneurial tradition within the BAME community, who have started with absolutely nothing and have made multi-million-pound businesses. So, it shows the talent is there.  In the private sector, as entrepreneurs, the ability to develop themselves is not being matched in the public sector, and as a society as a whole. The REED Manpower survey in Bradford about two or three years ago identified snowy peaks in our local authority and public agencies here, which is right at senior levels, predominately white. Are we saying that we do not have qualified or skilled BAME managers who can come and do these jobs? So there seems to be most definitely a ceiling for BAME managers, that they are not making it to senior managers.”

The Clear Conclusion

It would seem both community leaders and well respected groups have a strong message for our politicians. They all welcome the picking up of the mantle on their behalf, and this includes the time and effort put into the Race Disparity Audit. But what they are saying is, unless you deal with the structural inequalities of society preventing people from having real social mobility, the BAME imbalance will continue. In places like Bradford, the North-South divide is also cited as a major factor in creating further issues of race. So yes, communities in London (The South) may have greater opportunities for prosperity, but certainly up North, because of poverty and austerity, for BAME communities this is a double whammy.  Kamaljeet Jandu is quick to point out: “We are already experiencing austerity and poverty and then that’s compounded with racism and structural inequality as well.

“This all seems to create a paradigm where actually rather than the state taking responsibility for racism and discrimination, it’s actually shifting the blame towards the very communities who are the victims of structural inequality. Of course, as communities we need to try and maximise the opportunities available to us. That doesn’t mean anything.”

A Message From The People

‘Community leaders and members of the public welcome the Prime Minister’s promise to launch a programme of work to tackle some of the disparities in the audit. But we feel we cannot create a truly fair and cohesive society unless the private, public and third sectors work alongside the government to make sure everyone is able to enjoy the same opportunities.’  It will be a message hopefully noted by The Prime Minister.

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