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May orders public service audit to reveal racial disparities

Published 27/08/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered Whitehall departments to identify and publish information showing how outcomes vary for people of different backgrounds
Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered Whitehall departments to identify and publish information showing how outcomes vary for people of different backgrounds

Theresa May has launched an audit of public services to root out racial disparities as part of a drive to tackle inequality and reveal "difficult truths".

The Prime Minister has ordered Whitehall departments to identify and publish information showing how outcomes vary for people of different backgrounds in a range of areas including health, education and employment.

Described by Downing Street as unprecedented, the audit aims to give every person the ability to check how their race affects the way they are treated by public services.

Data gathered under the exercise will also be used to help force poor-performing services to improve.

Last week a sweeping report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that black and ethnic minority people still face "entrenched" race inequality across many strands of modern life in Britain.

Mrs May said: "When I stood on the steps of Downing Street on my first day, I made clear that I believe in a United Kingdom by every definition - and that means the Government I lead will stand up for you and your family against injustice and inequality.

"Today, I am launching an audit to look into racial disparities in our public services, that stretches right across government.

"It will highlight the differences in outcomes for people of different backgrounds, in every area from health to education, childcare to welfare, employment, skills and criminal justice.

"This audit will reveal difficult truths, but we should not be apologetic about shining a light on injustices as never before. It is only by doing so we can make this country work for everyone, not just a privileged few."

No10 cited figures it said show large disparities between how people are treated depending on their race, including:

:: if you are from a Black Caribbean background, you are three times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than your peers;

:: if you are a black woman, you are seven times more likely to be detained under mental health legislation than a white woman;

:: The employment rate for ethnic minorities is 10 percentage points lower than the national average;

:: People in ethnic minority households are almost twice as likely to live in relative poverty as white people.

The audit aims to expose disadvantages suffered by white working class people as well as ethnic minorities. White working class boys are less likely to go to university than any other group.

This type of information is not systematically captured by public services, and collected by government for the specific purpose of revealing racial disparity in only a few areas.

Downing Street said the audit will also help understand where there are " geographical inequalities" in services that affect people of some races more than others.

The work will be led by a new dedicated Whitehall unit in the Cabinet Office, with the first data expected to be published before summer next year.

David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said its report "showed the deep inequalities that still exist in our society".

He added: "I warmly welcome the Prime Minister's announcement and hope today marks the start of a whole-government approach to tackling entrenched inequality and disadvantage.

"Together we can move beyond highlighting familiar problems to delivering new solutions that can be easily monitored."

Shadow women and equalities minister Angela Rayner said: "First of all, this is only a partial review, because there is no similar examination of barriers to equality within the private sector. That is a huge gap.

"Secondly, this Government has been told time and again by repeated reports from the United Nations to the Equality and Human Rights Commission exactly where the problems are. We don't need an audit, we need action to stamp out racial discrimination across the board.

"This is political posturing and positioning by Theresa May, we don't need any more analysis - we need action.

"The tragedy is that the Government lacks the political will to tackle the issues of poverty, class, race and disadvantage which stop people in Britain from getting on in life and fulfilling all of their potential.

"This Conservative Government offers no real action to tackle the entrenched inequality suffered by people from the black, Asian and ethnic minority communities and those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds in education, health, housing and the justice system."

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