We are an organisation made up from people who come together to meet their housing needs under co-operative principles.
Current debates regarding race and ethnic disparities, have been given a sense of urgency because of data arising from the global impact of the pandemic of COVID 19, coinciding with the groundswell of ‘Black Lives Matters’ George Floyd protests taking place all over the UK during the COVID 19 lockdown, that has been followed by the dismantling of statues of former slave owners around the world. These debates have conﬂated issues of race, national identity and race equality, bringing back into focus the treatment of BME communities in the UK over decades and centuries with the profiteering legacy of chattel slavery, highlighting the link of Britain’s colonial empire to the race disparities that exist today.
At the time of writing, we have just seen three episodes of Small Axe a series of TV Films shown consecutively on BBC 1 by Oscar Winning Director Steve McQueen, who is depicting the black struggles against racism in the UK during the last 50 years. The films, Mangrove, Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue depict a multi-layered nuanced look through a semi biographical lens of Black narratives that via it’s airing on the BBC, enables UK society to establish a commonality to identify with these experiences of racism which adds another dimension to us being able to unpack racism and effects in a way we have never before.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities not only creates the opportunity to facilitate Government with a greater understanding of racism and how it impacts, individuals, groups, communities and organisations from BME communities; but provides the UK Government with the clear opportunity to demonstrate that it is Anti racist by acting on its findings and recommendations with robust legislation to ensure that the UK becomes the nation that leads the way in intolerance towards racism in all its forms at all levels of UK society.
In response to the Call For Evidence from the Commission I have submitted answers to the questions posed below. Given the current debates on Anti racism and structural inequality we can only hope that the current government seizes the opportunity, to use this moment to address this scourge on society and fulfil Martin Luther King Jr’s dream.
1a) Britain’s Imperial History cannot be detached
A robust analysis of the UK’s involvement in the Atlantic Slave trade and its contribution to European economic expansionism with the British Empire establishing itself a world power with the territories it colonised around the globe; is the direct connection to the British subjects from these former colonised territories, who came to the UK after the second world war to help rebuild the country at the request of the UK government. It is this history, related power and people dynamics that play the major significant factor and its legacy can be rationalised as the main and root causes of race and ethnic disparities in the UK.
1b) Equality as a Human Right
The most recent Parliamentary Report published on 4th November 2020 titled Black People, Racism and Human Rights states that over 60% of Black people in the UK do not believe their health is as equally protected by the NHS compared to white people. 85% of black people are not confident that they would be treated the same as a white person by the police.
The report states that there has been failings of successive governments to act in response to the successive reports and reviews shows that something is wrong with the architecture which is supposed to protect human rights and promote racial equality. The report calls into question the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “For the EHRC to be, and be seen to be, effective Black people must be represented at the top level of the organisation, including as commissioners. The Commission needs adequate resources. And its enforcement powers must be strengthened to enable it to undertake investigations where it is suspected that an organisation has breached the Human Rights Act 1998 and provide legal assistance to individuals in Human Rights Act cases.
Even if the EHRC’s capacity to promote and protect Black people’s human rights is enhanced as we recommend, there would still be the need for a high profile, organisation at national level whose priority it is to champion and press for progress on race equality. This capacity has not existed since the Commission for Racial Equality was folded into the EHRC. The re-creation of a body along the lines of the CRE must now take place, along with a network of bodies at local level to fulfil a role similar to that previously performed by the race equality councils. The Government should consider whether changes are required to equality legislation to make it more effective as a tool to enforce Black people’s human rights.
1c) The Role of Immigration Debates, Legislation and Policy –
The Black People, Racism and Human rights parliamentary report references the recent and ongoing Windrush scandal that presents a damning example of the UK’s systemic racism, metered out by the Home Office hostile environment policy against illegal immigration, for whom those who were born in the Caribbean, with insufficient documentation were a low hanging fruit.
The report further states “We expect the Government to fulfil its promise to implement the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, in full, as a matter of urgency. In particular, the Home Office needs to embed the culture change needed to ensure that people are treated with humanity. We are hugely disappointed by the delays in making payments under the Windrush Compensation Scheme. Those affected must receive the compensation that they are entitled to without further delay”
The UK’s systemic racism can be seen in the form of cabinet debates that institutionalised ‘black immigration as a problem’ in the early 1950’s. These debates were often predicated on the threats posed to British society and culture by Black British Subjects as ‘undesirable immigrants’ although the majority immigrants were from Europe and Ireland.
The immigration debate has been used as political capital in election campaigns since the docking of the Windrush until this very day. The use of coded language by politicians such as the influx of immigrants, forces we seem unable to control, large numbers, being swamped, alien values, has been commonplace. A rhetoric not used in fact, but used selectively to emphasise and symbolise the fears of the nation that positioned Black people as ‘the others in society’ that can be seen in parliamentary discourses before, during, and after the start of increasingly restrictive immigration legislation since the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962.
This is the kind of political rhetoric the Black and ethnic minority communities have had to endure in the UK surrounding topical discussion of immigration and migrants as the ‘others in society’ whose merits have been framed and debated as a problem at the political and ruling class level of society from the landing of the Windrush right up to Brexit; presented and legitimised by a media machine that presents itself as impartial but serves a power nexus that either unwittingly or knowingly maintains a status quo normalising the structural apparatus that governs, that has influence over the mechanisms that operates this country and continually affects people from BME communities subjecting them to direct and indirect inequalities every day.
1d) Race Relations Interventions
Roy Hattersley’s statement in 1965, ‘Integration without limitation is impossible; limitation without integration is indefensible’, contributed to a dual strategy of balancing immigration controls with integration measures. Partly based on the fear of the impact that social exclusion would have on racial minorities given riots in the USA, The Race Relations Acts of 1965, 1968 had twin objectives of :
a) setting up special bodies to deal with the problems face by immigrants in dealing with racism, social adjustment and welfare and,
b) helping to educate the population as a whole about race relations, seeking to minimise the risk of racial conflicts developing in UK as it had done in the USA.
The responsibility of implementing Race Relations Acts of that time was given to weak quasi-governmental bodies whose objectives were to tackle race discrimination, but their ability to implement them was severely limited.
A.Sivinandan former Director of the Institute Race Relations in 1999 says of Community Relations Commission, The Race Relations Board and the Commission For Race Equality “These were organisations set up not to effect the integration of the mass of Black people in the country but create a tranche of Black middle class administrators who would manage racism. They were set up as buffering institutions to deal with potential social dislocation… These organisations were about how to absorb and negate disquiet…
Where is the integration? Blacks as radio and television presenters, as MP’s, as Arts critics means nothing if the lives of ordinary Black people at the bottom of the pile have not improved. In effect, what we have today are two racisms: the racism that discriminates( which affects middle class Blacks bothered about those glass ceilings) and the racism that kills on the streets and in police or prison custody.
2a) The Parker Review in 2017 made three main recommendations, an Increase the Ethnic Diversity of UK Boards, Develop Candidates for the Pipeline & Plan for Succession, Enhance Transparency & Disclosure, with clear targets stating that the support of Government and regulatory bodies is essential to achieving progress in all aspects of diversity and social mobility, including increasing the representation of people of colour in decision-making and leadership roles in corporate Britain.
2b) The MacGregor Smith Review in 2017, suggested the time for talking is over, suggesting a economic benefit to the UK economy of £24 billion to BME talent is fully utilised, arguing the public sector must use its purchasing power to drive change.
“There is discrimination and bias at every stage of an individual’s career, and even before it begins. From networks to recruitment and then in the workforce, it is there. BME people are faced with a distinct lack of role models, they are more likely to perceive the workplace as hostile, they are less likely to apply for and be given promotions and they are more likely to be disciplined or judged harshly”
In total The MacGregor Smith Review begins by declaring “We should live in a country where every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, is able to fulfil their potential at work.” And makes 25 recommendations including publishing aspirational targets, making employers data publicly available, encourage employers to disclose, government legislation, unconscious bias training made freely available,”
3a) COVID 19
In the Business in the Community report on ETHNICITY AND THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF COVID-19 it states, predicted grades at GCSE and A-Level are usually under-predicted for BAME pupils. BAME pupils annually out-perform what their teachers and schools predicted their grades would be, year on year. Safeguards needs being put in place to ensure that bias is stripped out of the forecasts and decisions for BAME student predicted grades urgent action is needed on this.
3b) Modelling best practice
There is the argument for modelling the best practice of best performing schools in urban areas that are achieving the best results. For example Brampton Manor Academy went from one student into Oxbridge in 2014 has now seen a “remarkable” 51 pupils receive offers to study at the two elite institutions – rivalling top fee-paying schools.
3c) Educational Reform
There is the argument for educational reform to have a new philosophical outlook in line with Sir Ken Robinson’s changing education paradigms video which suggest that our system of education was designed and conceived for a different age, and as such alienates the majority of children. Driven by an economic imperative and assumptions on social structure and the capacity of children to learn, how we educate children generally needs to be reviewed. Post COVID 19 and George Floyd Protests there is a renewed call for the cultural dimension of ethnicity to be included and shape the curriculum moving forward. With the main rationale that a curriculum that is more inclusive, that starts to tackle contemporary issues and challenges is more likely to succeed. If education’s focus is based on only improved performance in exam results for our children presents their best chance at becoming employable, then developing techniques to succeed at standardised testing will remain the priority.
4a) Getting beyond including Global History perspectives in the curriculum becoming highly political
It may be obvious to say a global history needs to be taught including parallel historical narratives, with the impact of European Imperial expansionism and its contribution to current economic wealth of nation states should be taught at all state schools.
But campaigns for a review of the national curriculum as it relates to including Black history before the slave trade have been rejected to date. Until a more open debate is facilitated and takes place on the merits children learning about their identities of cultural origin, we will struggle to get beyond the old tropes of multiculturalism v the celebration of British Imperial identity with the debate staying firmly located in the realm as fodder for what political capital can be gained for the political agenda of the day.
4b) Curriculum Development for local needs
Creativity around curriculum development should be left to meeting the needs of the local demographics of a school community and what will meet the educational development needs of the pupils and students concerned. The teaching profession has to be given the latitude to shape the curriculum as is necessary to the local school community, within the overall framework of the national curriculum. There is an argument to say that bandwidth is already there, except for the time and resource pressure for schools to achieve according to the school league tables of examination results, which will dictate a schools management and operational culture. It is the government’s role to continually review if the national curriculum is fit for purpose; the question is, is there the willingness, flexibility, and capacity to deliver education that meets children’s cultural development needs at a local level to enhance every child’s education experience.
4c) Learning Lessons from Specialist Provision
The George Padmore Institute holds an extensive archive of the Black Education Movement and Black Supplementary School movement from the 1970’s. This collection will prove valuable if the Commission is interested in looking at the adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of BME learners.
The material in this collection covers the early period of the Black Education Movement and the Black Supplementary Schools Movement (1968-1975). It represents just part of that Movement, which was and never has been a single organisation. However, it covers some of the major campaigns of the early period of the Black Education Movement that were based in North London, in particular the London Borough of Haringey. These early campaigns should also be seen as the background to, or the initial phase of, the Black Parents Movement (BPM), which ran from 1975 into the mid 1980s
The survey by Careers England (the association for organisations providing Careers information and guidance to schools in England), the National Association of Head Teachers and the Headteachers’ campaign group WorthLess? stated that schools were unable to deliver adequate careers provision due to a lack of funding. Based on a survey of 191 school leaders and career professionals, the group suggested that:
Given this data there is a concern that BME school pupils and students are not receiving adequate careers guidance at school. To improve access to education, training and employment opportunities there is a need to review careers advice and careers guidance interventions as it applies to BME young people aged 16 to 24. Commission research to Evaluate the work of National Careers Service and Careers and Enterprise Agency against the Gatsby Benchmark as it applies to urban school pupils and students, to provide the necessary qualitative and quantitive data to assess performance against national averages
Report on the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge (ASK) Programme run by the The Education and Skills Funding Agency
“We surveyed a number of schools recently and 76% stated that the duty is being partially complied with. A further review this summer found that compliance, although patchy, is improving. In January of this year, a report from the IPPR contained similar findings: 70% of providers found it difficult to access schools in their area, but one in three said the situation had improved.”
The Royal College of Psychiatrists report on Racism and Mental Health quote the 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey showed that, although Black British adults had the highest mean score for severity of mental health symptoms, they were the least likely to receive treatment for mental illness. Where they do come into contact with services, it is disproportionately based on a detention order requiring them to stay in hospital.
As the College has previously publicly recognised, patients in the NHS may experience racism and racial discrimination. This has also been recognised as a problem in international healthcare systems. It can lead to substantial disparity in access to and experiences of various areas of psychiatric care, including crisis care , admissions, detention, pathways into care, readmission and use of seclusion.
Tackling racism and racial discrimination in health outcomes and mental health services requires an open and frank discussion about how it can be addressed. We agree with The Royal College of Psychiatrists when they outline the support necessary for this to happen.
More high-quality data and evidence, informed by a national research priority setting exercise. A concerted effort to raise literacy on the impact of racism on mental health. Leadership in implementing preventive interventions and actions to eliminate the inequalities faced by Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in accessing and using mental health services. A mechanism to assess, on an ongoing basis, the impact of existing and new policies, as well as practices on the mental health of patients, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups.
The Race Relations Amendment Act 1999 was far reaching in its measures to address Institutional Racism as was acknowledged after the Macpherson Report from the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawerence.
The amended RRA s. 71 provided that every specified or defined public authority ‘shall, in carrying out its functions have due regard to the need –
In October 2001, an order by the Home Secretary imposed ‘specific duties’ on public authorities to ensure ‘the better performance’ of their s. 71 duty. A central requirement was to publish a race equality scheme showing how the authority would fulfil its race equality duty by identifying which of its functions were relevant to the duty, and how it would assess and consult on race equality impact, train staff, and monitor workforce matters.
In theory there should be Twenty years of experience from the Police as a statutory body as this was legislated public duty. Given this experience there should be the relevant knowledge of models used to pursue this objective, needless to say further consultation with community groups surrounding the issues that are of priority to them concerning policing measures and how it affects their communities would be the obvious way to go. Relevant data that benchmarks performance and effectiveness of Policing measures as it relates protecting and serving the communities policed, along with effective communications and messaging to demonstrate targeted groups would go someway to creating an effective dialogue around change.
The Lammy Review reported on the disparities faced by those of BME background. The Lammy Review made 35 recommendations with regard to the criminal justice towards a fairer and more just CJS. David Lammy in 2020 stated “When I completed the review, 41% of children in prison came from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background. Now the figure is 51%. The proportion of all stop and searches on black people has increased by 69% over 5 years. The average custodial sentence for a black person is almost 10 years longer than a white person.”
Muslims make up 15% of the prison population despite making up only 5% of the overall population. Gypsies, Roma and Irish travellers are estimated to account for 5% of male prisoners, despite accounting for only 0.1% of the UK population For those convicted of recordable, indictable offences in the Crown Court in 2015, there was an association between ethnicity and being sentenced to prison. An especially strong effect was observed within drug offences (within which the odds of receiving a prison sentence were around 240% higher for BAME offenders) – this is despite the fact that research has found that Black British people consume drugs at lower rates than white British people
The governments Ethnicity Facts and Figures website presents data relating to crime, whether that be victims of crime, those who fear crime the most, reoffending rates, those subject to domestic abuse, length of sentences, where BME representation disparities are significant.
The Governments Race Disparity Audit 2017 found that children in Black and Asian households were around twice as likely to be in persistent poverty, with 1 in 4 children in Asian households and 1 in 5 children in Black households in persistent poverty, compared to 1 in 10 children in White households. It stated that Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people were especially likely to live in areas of deprivation.
The UK government needs to take a zero tolerance approach to anti racism, leading from the front which means making the necessary legislative change and making the required investment to achieve a post racial society. Below is the addressing structural Inequalities statement from BME London Landlords of which Imani Housing Coop Ltd is a member, the collaboration is actively working Towards engaging and enlist partners within the Social Housing sector to combat racial and ethnic disparities.
‘We cannot erase the past, but we can build a better future for all’ – BME London Landlords
BME London Landlords – Addressing Structural Inequalities Statement
14 BME London Registered Social Landlords CEO’s, known as BME London, publish this statement of intent in response to the growing momentum in the call for race equality from the Black Lives Matter protests as a result of the sickening injustice of the murder of George Floyd by a police oﬃcer witnessed by the whole world.
We condemn this heinous act and stand in solidarity with all those who have come together to peacefully protest, and demand a change in how UK society seeks to challenge itself and change to build a better future for all people. In particular those from Black and Minority Ethnic communities in the London, whom we seek to serve and represent as community facing organisations.
We recognise that we are not doing enough.
As BME London Social Landlords, we have an even greater leadership responsibility as the foremost sustainable BME led non profit community organisations in London to speak up, campaign and work with others to address the dynamics of prejudice and power, that feeds the systemic and structural inequality that exists in our society.
First we had the deaths due to the Coronavirus disproportionately affecting those from BME communities (showing that they were twice as likely to die than white people) as a result of serious underlying inequalities based on race. Then we saw the groundswell of ‘Black Lives Matters’ George Floyd protests taking place all over the UK during the COVID 19 lockdown, that have now been followed by the dismantling of statues of former slave owners.
These crises have conﬂated issues of race, national identity and race equality, bringing back into focus the treatment of BME communities in the UK over decades and centuries with the profiteering legacy of chattel slavery, highlighting the link of Britain’s colonial empire to the race disparities that exist today. BME London welcomes the constructive debate on race and racial discrimination, and are keen to work with others to facilitate greater understanding of racism and how it impacts, individuals, groups, communities and organisations from BME communities.
As institutions we are part of society’s structure. As BME led housing organisations, within our leadership we have CEO’s who have their own personal narratives, on BME London’s board who have experienced having to navigating systemic racism within and outside the housing sector. We would fail the communities we work with if we failed to make public some of our own individual experiences. Our proximity to BME communities gives us that responsibility to set out and make the case for appropriate solutions moving forward.
We are 20 years in from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, we have just passed the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower ﬁre tragedy, followed by the Windrush Scandal. Historically what we have seen through a critical lens of reviews dealing with race, are well resourced expensive administrative processes of enquiry with a high degree of scrutiny, with thorough and robust findings; only for a familiar pattern to follow, characterised by subsequent official apologies, reviews, reports with recommendations, many of which are not implemented or translated into meaningful changes in policy. If we are to be honest with ourselves and learn from this recent past, we must be sincere and use this opportunity to reset and raise our ambition to create the lasting change that our society needs to prosper and thrive.
George Floyd’s death and the mobilisation call that “Black Lives Matters”, made by a new generation alongside peers and parents of all backgrounds in this new technological age, has fundamentally changed the nature of the discourse. We have a duty not to fail the next generation. What this experience has shown is how powerful transparency can be and act as the cornerstone for change. Not only are we committed to operate our businesses in an open and transparent manner, going forward, we will demand the same from our partners, stakeholders and service deliverers and providers. We believe this is a small, but a significant step against discrimination and prejudice.
The disparities that affect BME communities in poverty, housing, homelessness, education, employment, health, criminal justice, social mobility are real and stark. These social determinants as related to BME communities, in themselves ask the question of society do ‘Black Lives Matter’ and, as a society, makes us all accountable to demonstrate we can answer in the positive by ensuring robust measures are in place to reduce inequality in every single indicator. We are committed to advocating for and working in partnership to support work that addresses disparities and inequalities that face BME communities in London.
Young people are our future – our future health professionals, teachers, school Governors, entrepreneurs, parents, and carers. A society that cannot offer hope and belief, simply cannot prosper. We, as individuals, and CEO’s of BME Led Housing Organisations, together with London’s community must commit to working towards making London the kind of city and economy that our young people from BME communities and in particular our young Black people deserve and have a stake in. This means we must ensure that young members of BME communities are given genuine hope for the future, to allow them to believe that they will have an equal chance of fulfilling their dreams and potential.
Our commitment extends to working in partnership with other agencies, organisations and government in working towards the following:-
1. Giving young people from Black and BME communities hope and confidence, that their future matters. We will work to bridge the gap between the young generation from BME communities and our organisations, by advocating for more resources and support to grassroots BME community enterprises already making progress in engaging young people and delivering positive results; and through mentoring/internships programmes we run and our day to day work with residents.
2. Contributing to keeping young people safe, by maintaining a focus on the causes of serious youth violence and knife crime, and give help to those who need a second chance to get their lives on a better track. The evidence shows that there is disproportionate representation of Black and BAME young people among both victims and offenders. We commit ourselves to work with grass-roots BME communities to shine the light on this issue.
3. Making the case for opening up workforces at all levels to people of all backgrounds where the conclusive evidence is that businesses with more diverse workforces at all levels of seniority do better. The evidence is very clear – people from Black and BME backgrounds with equivalent education level do not get into the same well paid jobs with good prospects as those from more advantaged backgrounds and are more likely to be unemployed, or under-employed. It’s time to follow the evidence. We are committed to re-examining our internal practices and change processes or attitudes that would deny opportunity to members of the Black and BME minorities and we will demand the same from partners and stakeholders. We will campaign to ensure that diversity at senior levels becomes a reality and not just a discussion, by making our organisations safe spaces for colleagues to talk about issues of race and discrimination and pay inequality, and seeking to tackle the daily small acts which make one set of colleagues perpetually feel they are not seen as equals.
4. Advocate for a national conversation on “homes that are fit for frontline workers” and work with BME National and other social housing trade bodies, to have an important role in making this happen.
5. Demonstrate leadership by proactively working with local, regional and central government to ensure that there are clear goals, targets and measures to track the improvement in race disparity indicators. As such BME London welcomes the UK government in its recently announced cross governmental commission looking at discrimination towards BAME people in education, health and criminal justice system, and will make ourselves available and believe we have an important contribution to make in providing socially innovative solutions to move the agenda forward.
Given the response of solidarity by so many organisations and institutions to create a more just society in the wake of the George Floyd “Black Lives Matter” protest, we must call on the UK Government to seize this opportunity to demonstrate its sincerity to address race disparities as highlighted in the statistics from its own Race Disparity Unit and commit to further work on the implementation of existing recommendations (outlined below) from previous reviews. Enter relevant discussions with community facing organisations and groups such as BME London to create an environment where real movement towards a more equal and just society may materialise.
We suggest that a new focus on previous reviews provides a useful baseline for discussions to take forward a new agenda which can shape the basis for moving forward. So we ask that the government considers the following :-
We cannot erase the past, but we can build a better future for all. The business case for unlocking the full potential of all Londoners is to act on addressing the structural inequalities. BME London is committed to being proactive to play its part. We invite others on this journey to make lasting change.
BME London Landlords – 19th June 2020
Khalid Mair – Chair of Imani Housing Coop Ltd.