Theresa May said of the new ‘Ethnic disparity audit’, “…People who have lived with discrimination don’t need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge…”. While the audit doesn’t provide any new information, we welcome the Government shining a light on the appalling levels of inequality in our society, and committing to action.
In the area of housing alone, the audit data reinforces what we know – that ethnic minority households are more likely to be living in fuel poverty, damp or overcrowded housing than White British households and, despite the myths, are less likely to live in social rented homes. The data set doesn’t include homelessness – odd when we know that rough sleeping has increased by 134% since 2009/10 and that people from some BAME communities are more likely to become homeless.
Most of us feel that having a decent home to call your own should be a basic human right, and at HDN we know housing can be a vital resource in tackling inequality. There is clearly work to do.
Data can only ever be a ‘can-opener’ to understanding a problem – it doesn’t tell us the underlying causes, or more importantly the actions needed to resolve it.
We do know that the inequality highlighted today is not due to a lack of skills, knowledge or effort on the part of people from BAME communities. The regional variations demonstrate that the problem is structural. It is vital that this data is not misinterpreted or used as a stick to beat those who face discrimination.
The causes are complex and multi-faceted. They combine historical injustices such as slavery and colonialism. They include institutional and structural inequalities – in our financial, education, employment and criminal justice systems. They involve interpersonal factors – contacts and networking (do your parents have a friend who can offer you an internship in your chosen industry?). Last but not least, is the impact all this has on the expectations, hopes and dreams of individuals, families and communities.
The consequences are appalling – for the people not getting a fair chance and for us all – missing out on the talents and creativity that diversity brings, and paying the price for failures in our health, social care and criminal justice systems.
Solving this injustice should be a priority, and the audit data must be the starting point for us all to commit to firm action to challenge discrimination and unconscious bias and create the opportunities and culture for all people to flourish.
It is not just about giving people support to clamber over barriers; it’s about systematically dismantling barriers. This is not about “them”; it’s about us. All of us.
Sallie Bridgen and Alison Burns
Housing Diversity Network