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Audit a ‘starting point’ for action to tackle racial inequality, May promises

The PM admitted the findings were “uncomfortable”.

A new audit laying bare the deep difference in life experiences of Britain’s racial groups will be a “starting point” for Government action to tackle inequality, Prime Minister Theresa May has promised.

The report published by the Government showed widely varying outcomes in areas including education, employment, health and criminal justice between Britain’s white and ethnic minority populations.

Mrs May was confronted by voters’ personal experiences of discrimination when she took calls on an LBC radio phone-in.

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(PA Graphics)

One caller, who gave her name as Louise from Hitchen, said she believed racism was “pathologically entrenched in this country”, while Margaret from Harrow, north London, told the PM she had to switch her father’s African surname for her mother’s English one in order to get job interviews.

Mrs May, who commissioned the audit soon after becoming PM last year, has faced criticism that it describes the problems faced by Britain’s ethnic minorities but does not include proposals to solve them.

But she told LBC: “This is not just about publishing a set of data and saying ‘That’s it, job done’. Absolutely not. This is the starting point of what we have to do.”

Mrs May said she was “not sure at this stage” what legislation might be needed, but said there was already work under way to tackle the disproportionate number of black boys excluded from school.

And she said that in some cases, progress might be made simply by highlighting the issue with employers and public bodies.

Figures from the audit collated on a new Ethnicity Facts and Figures website showed that while state-educated white Britons had the lowest rate for going to university, they were also less likely to be unemployed than ethnic minorities and were more likely to own their own home.

Among the findings were:

:: Asian, black and other ethnic groups were disproportionately likely to be on a low income, with almost half of households in the bottom 40% nationally before housing costs were taken into account.

:: Households of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, black, mixed and other backgrounds were more likely to receive income-related benefits and tax credits than those in other ethnic groups.

:: Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers received the lowest average hourly pay of £11.42, while Indian workers received the highest on £15.81.

:: Ethnic minorities are more likely to live in areas of deprivation, especially black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people.

:: White pupils from state schools had the lowest university entry rate of any ethnic group in 2016. Chinese pupils had the highest attainment throughout school, made the most progress and were the most likely to stay in education and go to university.

:: White people were among the least likely to become a victim of crime or to fear becoming a victim.

Meeting campaigners at 10 Downing Street, Mrs May admitted the findings were “uncomfortable” and said there would be “nowhere to hide” for public bodies which fail to respond. Departments would have to “explain or change” areas of their work where different racial groups received differing levels of service.

Labour’s equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler said that Mrs May had written to then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2010 warning of the risk that austerity would disproportionately hit minorities.

“As Prime Minister, knowing full well the damage that would be caused by the Conservative cuts, Theresa May has done nothing but exacerbate the problem,” said Ms Butler. “Far from tackling burning injustices, she has added fuel to the fire.”

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Theresa May discusses the statistics at Dunraven School (Geoff Pugh/Daily Telegraph/PA)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said: “Theresa May’s decision to shine a light on this issue means she can’t now shy away from tackling the causes of this inequality – including cuts to public services and a shrinking state.”

Martha Spurrier, director of civil rights group Liberty, said: “The bleak picture this report paints of racial injustice in the UK demands an immediate and bold response. But the solutions the Government is putting up are little more than a plaster on a gaping wound.”

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(PA Graphics)

London’s deputy mayor for social integration, Matthew Ryder, said: “This is very troubling information, but sadly all too familiar reading for those who have been deeply concerned about inequality in Britain for many years.

“While we welcome the publication of this data, and the Prime Minister’s commitment to ‘explain or change’ the disparities it highlights, this must now be accompanied by the resources and action necessary to make a real difference.”

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