Theresa May announces audit to tackle public sector racial disparities

Scheme will look into how race might affect how people are dealt with in areas such as work, education and the NHS

Theresa May has followed up her public comments about social justice when she took office by announcing a wide-ranging plan to monitor and address differences in the way people from various ethnic backgrounds are treated by public services.

Following her efforts as home secretary to highlight the disproportionate number of black and minority ethnic people being stopped and searched by police, the prime minister has promised to expose similar disparities elsewhere.

Described as a “government audit to tackle racial disparities in public service outcomes”, the work will be led by a new team in the Cabinet Office, reporting to Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, and Ben Gummer, the Cabinet Office minister.

The aim is also to allow members of the public to access data showing how their race might affect how they are dealt with in areas such as work, education and the NHS, along with detail on location, income and gender.

The scheme would also cover disadvantage and prejudice faced by white working-class people, Downing Street said. A spokesman said the data would be used to help ministries see where more efforts were needed.

Such ethnicity-based data is already collected and analysed in a number of parts of public services. But Downing Street say people do not always have access to it, and that the new project will identify areas needing research.

As home secretary, May sought to change the use of stop-and-search powers by police, noting that black Britons were seven times more likely to be stopped than white people.

On her first day as prime minister, she used a speech in Downing Street to promise to fight for ordinary Britons and combat the “burning injustice” in society.

The statement announcing the audit repeated this phrase and added: “Not only will it give every person the ability to check how their race affects the way they are treated by public services, the transparent information will help government and the public to force poor-performing services to improve.”

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.

“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.”

Statistics cited in the announcement include that pupils from black Caribbean backgrounds are three times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than white peers, and that the employment rate for people from ethnic minorities is 10 percentage points lower than the national average.

Asked for examples of what sort of areas would potentially be covered, a Downing Street spokesman listed access to good schools, acceptance to universities, graduation rates and progression to graduate jobs, and the takeup of services such as free childcare.

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, welcomed the project, saying he hoped it “marks the start of a whole-government approach to tackling entrenched inequality and disadvantage”.

He added: “Together we can move beyond highlighting familiar problems to delivering new solutions that can be easily monitored. We stand ready to work with the government to ensure this translates into policies that will start to make a difference to people’s lives and opportunities.”


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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