Lack of data hampers Theresa May's efforts on racial inequality

Public services failing to collect ethnicity data, equality committee says

Theresa May’s efforts to tackle racial disparity in public services are being hampered by poor data-gathering in Whitehall, MPs have warned.

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee welcomed the launch of the prime minister’s groundbreaking race disparity audit after she entered Downing Street in 2016, but said that without robust ethnicity data, government departments would remain ignorant of the “uncomfortable truths” they were supposed to be addressing.

Among the findings of its first report, published in October 2017, were that:

• Chinese and Asian secondary school pupils outperformed their white and black counterparts;
• Black men were more than three times as likely to be arrested as white men;
• The unemployment rate for black, Asian and minority ethnic people was nearly double that of white British adults.

However, the committee said that without consistent data departments would struggle to develop the policies needed to address such inequalities.

“It is clear that public services are not currently collecting ethnicity data in a streamlined fashion and that some agencies are not collecting data at all,” it said. “Clear and measurable plans are needed for improving the consistency and robustness of the data and turning it into a set of cross-government priorities for action to reduce the disparities shown by the audit.”

The committee’s chair, Maria Miller, said: “We strongly commend the principle and sound intentions of the race disparity audit. As the prime minister has said herself, it has helped expose many uncomfortable truths.

“However, the picture at present is that data collection across different areas of government and public services is inconsistent, not properly joined up and in some cases just isn’t happening. That isn’t good enough.”

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “This government is determined to build a society that works for everyone and we have not shied away from exposing uncomfortable truths that need to be addressed. It is encouraging that the committee has recognised the race disparity audit as an exemplary programme for tackling injustices.

“The government has already taken action to address disparities it highlighted, and will set out in its response to the committee how it will continue to do so as we build a fairer society for everyone.”


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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